An Anti-War Rally – I’m choosing “The War in the Air”
It is never easy to think about wars for normal people let alone those who were part of them and those who lost their families and friends. To them, everyday is a memorial day. The rally is meant to educate American people, and the people of the world, the pain and suffering war causes, while being respectful to the soldiers. So the poem chosen should be moving and corresponds to the theme “Bring the troops home.” And on my behalf, I consider “The War in the Air” written by Howard Nemerov is the best choice for an Anti-War Rally of the three that have been given.
Since poem is the art form that selected, the poem we chose should own the features that a classic poem should have. And I will approach my argument of evaluation following the characteristics of poems.
Poems have meaning. They can tell a story or explain feelings. In this case, “The War in the Air” do both. Every first two lines of each stanza create a sense of narration, telling the stories who “never came home to die”, the “ghosts” who bore “their tales/ of hitting the earth, the incompressible sea, and who had no graves.” However, “Grass” by Carl Sandburg portrayed a scene that bodies are piled high and then shoveled into the underground in a third-person point of view, and in this case, the grass. The poem is “plain-speaking” and just appears to be a bald, sudden statement, coldly objective. By reading this poem, we cannot manifest our theme which is “bring our troops home”. “Facing it”, written by a Vietnam Veteran, is moving, and yet it is not so well matched to the theme of the rally. The poet let the dark and painful mood erode him; he struggled but still couldn’t help to burst into tears. The impact of the war was so huge that it appears that there is no place for him to even have a chance to escape from the pain and struggle cause by the war. We always look at wars as number of dead bodies and we forget that these bodies once were living people with their likes and dislikes, their family and friends, their love and responsibilities. Those who were luckily survived, like the poet of “Facing it”, unfortunately sink themselves into great agony and can no longer live a normal life. It is too sad that I suppose that it is not appropriate for the rally, because the poem we chose should let people feel that there is still hope for those soldiers who are now in the battlefield to come back home and live a normal life.
Poems have images. They are made up of words that create pictures in our minds. Images often refer to our sense of sight, smell, sound, taste and touch. Images help people see something as if it is really there. “The war in the Air” paints a vivid picture of the contrast between a ground war and an air war. When soldiers die on a battlefield there is visible evidence of the battle: blood, bodies, artillery, etc. Conversely, when soldiers die “in the air” the only sign of struggle is blankness. The soldiers that survive air combat do not see their fallen comrades, they do not see the violence, and they do not see the eyes of their enemies. Without the evidence of battle does bloodshed transform into a “clean war”. It can help place people in a relatively real atmosphere of wars and feel the pain and suffering war causes which serve the theme of the rally perfectly. For this matter, “Grass” is weak to achieve this effect, because throughout the poem, the tone of the narrator, grass, is one of insistence, irritation and indifference. “Facing it” does let us imagine a scene of a Vietnam veteran stood right in front of the memorial and shed tears. However, it can only let people recall the miserable history but not help them to focus on what we can do now.
Poems have sounds. Poems sound different from other types of writing. They may have rhyming words, a regular rhyme like music, words with repeated sounds, or even words that sound like their meaning. “The War in the Air” is well rhymed. It consists of four rhyming quatrains. The rhyme scheme is a balancing act with the first two lines of each stanza void of rhyme and the final two lines of each stanza rhyming. However, “Grass” and “Facing it” is comparatively weak in this case. There is no distinctive sign of rhyming in both of them. As a strategy to begin the rally with a moving poem, the poem that we choose should be pleased to read and a rhyming one is obviously better than those not. Throughout “Grass”, Sandburg uses free verse to mimic ordinary conversation and avoids many dramatic elements, such as rhyme, meter or vivid language to invoke intense emotion. And I also barely see “Facing it” as a traditional poem but a flow of thoughts appeared in the form of poem and there is no rhyme at all which make it a loss of sense of beauty when people read it.
Poems have lines that may be long or short, and can be made up of whole sentences or sentence fragments. Some poems have lines arranged in stanzas. “The War in the Air” is strictly arranged into three stanzas which makes the poem neat and easy to read. And also no sentence fragments shape the poem well. Unlike it, “Facing it” is just thirty lines without any distinctive pattern and most of them are fragments which could be hard for people to read and fully understand the theme of the poem in a short time.
All in all, “The War in the Air” is a wise choice for an anti-war rally whose theme is “bring the troops home”.