Emdashes—Modern Times Between the Lines

The Basics:
About Emdashes | Email us

Before it moved to The New Yorker:
Ask the Librarians

Best of Emdashes: Hit Parade
A Web Comic: The Wavy Rule


Smile, Smile, Smile

Filed under: Eustace Google

A blogger's report from the recent "Poetry in Wartime" reading in the New Yorker Nights series:

What is your reaction to how ineffective poetry has been in the prevention of war? I ask:

Katha Pollitt says, "It's not just poetry, it's all art. Let's hope it's not a biological problem."

C.K. Williams says, "Don't think about it too much, or you'll go crazy."

Robert Pinsky, behind the table at the book signing, apologizes for not answering my question earlier, and then says that he would have responded, "With rage and despair."

Wilfred Owen wrote:

Head to limp head, the sunk-eyed wounded scanned
Yesterday's Mail; the casualties (typed small)
And (large) Vast Booty from our Latest Haul.
Also, they read of Cheap Homes, not yet planned,
'For,' said the paper, 'when this war is done
The men's first instinct will be making homes.
Meanwhile their foremost need is aerodomes,
It being certain war has but begun.
Peace would do wrong to our undying dead,—
The sons we offered might regret they died
If we got nothing lasting in their stead.
We must be solidly indemnified.
Though all be worthy Victory which all bought,
We rulers sitting in this ancient spot
Would wrong our very selves if we forgot
The greatest glory will be theirs who fought,
Who kept this nation in integrity.'

The complete poem is here.

Later note: I overheard this in the Burlington airport back in March. Father to young son: "That's what poetry is—words that rhyme that no one understands."


Emdash, I wish I had known you were there! I was there too, and I had a really grand time. I thought it was all you could hope and dream for in a panel discussion. I thought that “inefficacy of poetry against war” question was from a man, though. Anyhoo, next time you go to an event, clutch a red, red rose in your teeth so I can identify you. yrs,Jeepers

Post a comment

(If you haven't left a comment here before, it may need to be approved by the site owner before your comment will appear. Thanks for waiting.)

2008 Webby Awards Official Honoree