Public war memorials are sites of intense ideological negotiation, expressing the meaning of specific wars and their losses, whilst also speaking to private grief. War poetry also memorializes the experience of warfare and its effects. In poetry about war memorials, one form confronts the other. This essay initially considers poems that either embrace the values of the memorial or strenuously oppose them. It then examines the development, via modernism, of poetic voices that allow the reader to “view” the monument at the poem’s center whilst also questioning its values. Charlotte Mew and Seamus Heaney respond to First World War memorials; Robert Lowell reaches back to an American Civil War monument; Yusef Komunyakaa faces the Vietnam Veterans Memorial as a veteran himself. We draw on Barthes’s concept of punctum to illuminate the grief and loss that lie at the heart of those poems.


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pp. 162-181
Launched on MUSE
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