Original poem reprinted online here: "A Song" by Ghassan Zaqtan
Originally read: February 18, 2013
More information about the Poet: Ghassan Zaqtan
So I keep thinking in my head war poems are really hard to do. I once was asked, "do you know any Vietnam War Poems." No, not really. Yes there's been poems about World War I and II. But nothing too recent, and I wonder why. It's not like poets have stopped writing about wars -- all topics are on the table.
Yet this poem doesn't address the casualties of war. What this poem does is take away that emotional sentimentality line that (the emotional suffering of war) -- yes, I think by now that most people will agree that emotionally speaking -- war is bad, and instead shows the aftermath of war in a non-Hollywood fashion.
Note -- I'm referring to the concept of war being written in poetry rather than the individual stories like "The Death of the Turret Ball Gunner" by Randell Jarell where the speaker shows the traumas of war.
So the focus here is on the tone of the poem. How the cynicism undercuts some images. "The glory has been evenly split / among everyone" Okay right here, the concept glory (The inflation of pride from war in a sense) is being addressed which is condensed down to a medal for all to see (external) for the leaders (note -- not soldiers or people who died -- leaders).
And for those who died, "finished its cycle." So the line here cuts in many ways. One of the more prevalent for me was more of a circulation effect. Like the pictures of the dead on media, and we morn for the loss; however, this line could also refer to the cycle of war (which is also a foreshadowing device as well) that the dead will always pass.
I think the poem loses some momentum in the addressing of "you." When I first read this I didn't address the you, rather the tone of the speaker. And even know, the you seems underwhelming in one sense but adds something interesting in another.
Interesting -- The speaker is talking, most likely, to a soldier who has seen it all as well -- at least someone who is going to "smoke your whole / tobacco pack / before the next war comes" (the hyperbole adds to the cynicism -- this poem is full of hyperbole). And so who is the speaker really addressing in this poem for the audience to see. The speaker seems to mirror the "you" as far as experience is concerned -- both seem sort of cynical and have seen the cycle before. I think the interest for me here are how the parallels are constructed.
Underwhelming -- "You" brings a more personal touch to the poem --and with the personal, there's expectations on my behalf: why is the speaker addressing the "you," why is the "you" so important. If the speaker wrote "a soldier" then the flow of the external would make sense: leader, dead, soldier. But the "you" shifts directions that, within three lines, opens more possibilities than rather -- I guess end the poem (this could also be the point).