The Best Anti-War Poem

War, like love, is always a popular theme of poetry. Of the three war poems, I find that “Grass” by Carl Sandburg best suits the situation of anti-war rally. I draw this conclusion after a careful examination considering three criteria: whether the poem can strike a chord in Americans and people of the world, whether the poem conveys the senselessness of the war to the reader appropriately and whether the poem is easy to understand.

To begin with, since the poem is chosen for the opening of an anti-war rally, it must be able to arouse sympathy of audiences including people of different colors, religions and ages. In order to achieve this effect, it should be capable of bringing audiences closertogether and gaining recognition of its hearers. The poem “Grass” by Carl Sandburg does a good work at this point by adopting first point of view and employing “nature” as the narrator to put all people in this big background and draw nearer the distance among audiences. In contrast, the poem “Facing It” by Yueself Komunyakaa, also in first point of view, builds an invisible wall between “I”, an African American veteran, and its hearers while it suggests others in the memorial couldn’t have the same deeper understanding and feeling toward the war. As for the poem “The War in the Air” by Howard Nemerov, it limits itself to the war in the air, which may weaken its effect of appealing to all kinds of audiences. As a result, these two poems fail to fulfill the requirement according to the first criterion.

Secondly, the poem for the rally is supposed to introduce the pain and damage that war has caused to the individual and human beings in an appropriate tone. Using and repeating the word “pile”, “Grass” presents the toll that the consequences of war take on humanity. Besides, it condemns that people cover it up and never learn from it by listing some famous battles in the history. “Austerlitz”, “Waterloo”, “Gettysburg” and the other two, no matter how much significance and glory they might bring, just like the one that is going on, they cost a lot more than that. And what’s shameful is that people try to cover it up and forget it. Although the tone of it appears to be impassive, it produces a sarcastic effect. The repetition pattern throughout the whole poem strengthens the sarcastic effect and resentful tone. Whereas, “Facing It” mainly focuses on the depiction of the feeling and imagination of the poetry as a veteran. It tends to emphasize the unbearable and ineradicable harm war had brought to those who experienced it while neglecting the pain that it caused to the whole community and to the humanity. However, “The War in the Air” does a good work in conveying the dark side of the war from a broader perspective. It takes both “we”who see the war as lookers-on and “our dead” who sacrificed in the war, both winners and losers into discussion implying that there is no winner in war and both sides share the loss. In light of this criterion, both “Grass” and “The War in the Air” could be good choice.

Finally, the poem should be easy to read and understand considering its educational goal and influences that the rally intends to gain. In respect of this criterion, “Grass” is evidently the best one not only due to its shortness but also its simple words and pattern. The poem is quite short and in a repetition pattern for emphasizing effect. There are no difficult words that need extra interpretation and audiences from different educational background can understand it with basic reading ability. Poetry deliberately chooses those most well-known battles thus audiences will feel no difficulty in comprehension. However,“Facing It” is more likely a stream of consciousness that hearers may find it hard to follow the thought of the poetry. “The War in the Air” creates a grief atmosphere and conveys a deep meaning but it may take hearers a while to think it through, let alone somesophisticated phrases the poetry uses such as “Per ardua” and “Per aspera”. Given the understandability, the favor should be on “Grass”.

Based on the analysis above, which considers closeness to the audience, depiction of the dark side of the war for the humanity and understandability, I can safely conclude that the poem “Grass” by Carl Sandburg is the best poem for the anti-war rally.


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