By Jeffrey Walsh (auth.)
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Extra resources for American War Literature 1914 to Vietnam
In order to redefine the war aesthetically, and follow the advice of such modernists as Pound to purge poetic language of its 'emotional slither', American poets ten years or so later occasionally returned in their work to 1914-18 to revalue the conflict poetically. Frequently this impulse towards recollection manifests itself in a single memorable poem such as Bishop's 'In the Dordogne' or MacLeish's 'Memorial Rain'. ) In fiction and drama written in the thirties, too, novelists reassessed the First World War.
It is difficult to admire Underwood's aesthetic obsession with analogies derived from prehistory and fairy tale: he tends to be excessively fond of referring to zeppelins and war dragons. In such a vision, war in 1917 becomes equated with the prehistoric battles of the cave-men of Mercia against the flying sea-lizards, wars waged with flints and arrows. Underwood attempted to convey the historical energy of the war by deploying meteorological symbolism and images from metallurgy: the conflict is said to move like 'a cyclone of ruin' expressive of the clash between two wills of steel.
The attack is managed by the poet in two ways: he draws upon the stylistic and linguistic innovations of modernism to satirise the language of military conformism, and he creates a cacophony of oppositional voices. The quirky personalities of his speakers in the portrait poems are affirmed through a variety of idiosyncratic linguistic effects or idiolects such as colloquialisms, mispronunciations, oratorical modes of speech, literary quotations or self-conscious archaisms. The critical intelligence surrealised in these wry collocations gives Cummings's personae an edge over the uninformed 'mostpeople'.
American War Literature 1914 to Vietnam by Jeffrey Walsh (auth.)