Lois Leveen


March 11, 2012

DiVERSE Civil War Fact

Di-VERSE Civil War fact: Sweet ol' Emily Dickinson wrote most of her poems during the bloodiest years of the Civil War. An average of over one poem PER DAY.
Emily Dickinson in a Kepi
Creepy little meditations about what it means to live in a time when an unprecedented number of people are dying, and how to assimilate that death and destruction into your daily life (which, when there are wounded veterans returning to your town, is not so separate from the War).

I spent today listening to wonderful high school students compete in Poetry Out Loud, a national program encouraging poem recitation. Of the 12 competitors we heard at Powells, 3 will advance to the state competition at the end of the month. So in honor of them, and Emily Dickinson, here's a reflection for today's Civil War fact:

My Portion is Defeat—today—
A paler luck than Victory—
Less Paeans—fewer Bells—
The Drums don’t follow Me—with tunes—
Defeat—a somewhat slower—means—
More Arduous than Balls—

’Tis populous with Bone and stain—
And Men too straight to stoop again—,
And Piles of solid Moan—
And Chips of Blank—in Boyish Eyes—
And scraps of Prayer—
And Death’s surprise,
Stamped visible—in Stone—

There’s somewhat prouder, over there—
The Trumpets tell it to the Air—
How different Victory
To Him who has it—and the One
Who to have had it, would have been
Contender—to die—
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