In The Hudson Review, Volume LVI, Number 4 (Winter 2004), Bruce Bawer reviews the book Poets Against the War. This book is edited by Sam Hamill and features poems that speak out against the Iraqi war by poets both known and unknown.
The review in pdf form: A Plague of Poets
|Throughout these poems,the implicit argument is: Why can’t the whole world be as peaceable as my little corner of it is? The poets appear to believe that their serene lifestyles are somehow a reflection of their own wisdom and virtue; they seem to think they are in possession of some great yet elementary cosmic knowledge from which the rest of us can profit. What they evidently do not realize is that what they are celebrating in these poems is a security for which they have to thank (horrors) the U.S. military and a prosperity that they owe to (horrors again) American capitalism. Entirely absent from their facile scribblings, indeed, is any sign of awareness that this “blue planet” is a terribly dangerous place and that the affluence, safety, and liberty they enjoy, and that they write about with such vacuous selfcongratulation, are not the natural, default state of humankind but are, rather, hard-won and terribly vulnerable achievements of civilization.|
Does living in a country where a lack of open warfare is the norm create a poetry of ignorance?
Is it wrong for poets who live in a peaceable nation to write about or against violence elsewhere in the world?
I don’t think so. However, I believe that such topics as war and violence in a poem must always be approached with caution and a sort of enlightened respect. If we begin limiting the content of poems to those things that one has experienced directly, it would restrict the freedom of speech for which this country’s people have fought, the “hard-won and terribly vulnerable achievements of civilization.”