Nov 8, 2010

Gettysburg and "After the Wilderness" by Andrew Hudgins




I write this from a hotel in Gettysburg, a picturesque, appealing Pennsylvania town if ever there was one.

If Vonnegut is right when he says writing an anti-war novel is like writing an anti-glacier book, can you write an anti-war poem? I suspect the devil is in the details, as always. I'd think that coming at it from a somewhat new, less predictable angle would be important. And understatement, restraint--we keep having loud protests in the same way we keep having wars, so maybe we should consider more muted statements and images, with no gilded abstractions about glory or courage or the tragedy of it all. Just paint me a picture I wouldn't have thought of myself, yet one that captures something important about the subject.

Look what I found on my first click at Poetry Foundation, as I looked for a poem about friendship to go with the breaking bread photo. Sometimes there's a big old spooky presence out there.

After the Wilderness by Andrew Hudgins : The Poetry Foundation [poem] : Find Poems and Poets. Discover Poetry.

In sounding partisan about the Confederacy's dubious cause, Hudgins last line bothers me, and I wonder if he wants us bothered, stirred. I wonder if he's directing us to think of all the ways this is not about individuals, not causes.

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6 comments:

Brenda's Arizona said...

Oh my, what a poem, Banjomyn. What a haunting story stays with you.

Are you suggesting that if more people saw war this way, there would be fewer wars? But haven't people been writing about the 'individualistic' side of war, while wars continue to be bigger than any one of us?

The poem's narrator does not hint at the soldiers' wounds, but he tells us the squirrel was missing his jaw. Why does this hurt more than the human injuries?

Jean Spitzer said...

Once again, being literal. He has taken the viewpoint of a Confederate soldier and is using language and attitude in sync with that viewpoint.

BANJO52 said...

Jean, that's the way I see the literal aspects, and they do matter.

Brenda, I'd like to suggest that, but I doubt it's accurate. People in non-industrialized parts of the world see plenty of war up close and personal, yet they go on fighting.

Re: the squirrel, don't we (esp. dog lovers) often feel more sympathy toward animals than humans? They're innocent and so forth, while not many of us are.

I got the impression that the soldier's wounds are entirely or primarily psychological, so maybe we transfer the ripping of the squirrel, physically, to what's happened in the soldier's psyche? And maybe the jaw directs us to the power of speech, which neither creature has now?

This poem is new to me. I hope I'm not the only one who finds it pretty stirring. Then again, I was just touring a scene of horrific slaughter.

altadenahiker said...

Oh, you big show off. Like anything could compare to those photos.

BANJO52 said...

AH, thanks. The people in the restaurant amount to another case of luck, unless you call it skill when you take a dozen, and are shocked to discover that anything took (I'm thinking of the owl shot a while back).

Pasadena Adjacent said...
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