Remembering Veterans Day through Poetry

On Veterans Day we honor those who have valiantly served our country. We wish to commemorate these lives by sharing four poems that illustrate the sobering reality of military service.

Harvey Sharpiro (left) Yusef Komunyakaa (right)

Written by award-winning author and Bronze Star recipient Yusef Komunyakaa, Dien Cai Dau is a powerful and moving poetry collection that conjures images of the American war in Vietnam. Born in the rural community of Bogalusa, Louisiana, Komunyakaa served in Vietnam as a correspondent and editor of The Southern Cross and received a Bronze Star for his service as a journalist. The author of nine collections of poetry, Komunyakaa won both the Pulitzer Prize and the Kingsley Tufts Prize for his book Neon Vernacular: New and Selected Poems. He has also been awarded the William Faulkner Prize, the Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize, the Shelley Memorial Prize, and the Morton Dauwen Zabel Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. In 1999 he was elected a Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets.

The distinguished poet Harvey Shapiro passed away on January 7, 2013, leaving behind the manuscript for his posthumous collection A Momentary Glory: Final Poems. His emotionally impactful poetry captures many of his lived experiences, including his time serving as a radio gunner with the Fifteenth Air Force during World War II, for which he was honored with a Distinguished Flying Cross.

Perhaps best known for his novel Deliverance, James Dickey was also one of the nation’s most important poets and a prominent man of letters. The Whole Motion: Collected Poems, 1945–1992 collects his poetic oeuvre into a single volume, along with previously uncollected poems and unpublished “apprentice” works.

The Selected Poems, James Tate’s Pulitzer Prize-winning collection, gathers work from nine previous books, from The Lost Pilot which was a Yale Younger Poets selection in 1967, through his 1986 collection Reckoner. A most agile poet in a precarious world, Tate captures life at its most alarming and absurd; but he properly considered that absurdity reveals, often with laughter, the “something else” by which we live. The poems are about our world, and our wrecked, vexed love for it. “The Lost Pilot” acknowledges the lost relationship that Tate had with the father he never knew.