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11/11/2010 01:43 pm ET Updated May 25, 2011

Veterans Day Poems From The Poetry Foundation

The Poetry Foundation: Classic and contemporary poems from the archive that explore the meaning of Veterans Day.

by Becca Klaver

In poems, podcasts, articles, and more, writers measure the human effects of war. As they present the realities of life for soldiers returning home, the poets here refrain from depicting popular images of veterans. Still, there are familiar places: the veterans' hospitals visited by Ben Belitt, Elizabeth Bishop, Etheridge Knight, and W.D. Snodgrass; the minds struggling with post-traumatic stress in Stephen Vincent Benét's, Peter Balakian's, and Bruce Weigl's poems. Other poets salute particular soldiers, from those who went AWOL (Marvin Bell) to Congressional Medal of Honor winners (Michael S. Harper). Poet-veterans Karl Shapiro, Randall Jarrell, and Siegfried Sassoon reflect on service ("I did as these have done, but did not die") and everyday life ("Bank-holidays, and picture shows, and spats"). Sophie Jewett pauses to question "the fickle flag of truce." Sabrina Orah Mark's soldier fable is as funny as it is heartbreaking--reminding us, as we remember our nation's veterans, that the questions we ask of war yield no simple answers.

POEMS

"Post-Traumatic Shock, Newark, New Jersey, 1942" by Peter Balakian

"Veteran's Hospital" by Ben Belitt

"Veterans of the Seventies" by Marvin Bell

"Minor Litany" by Stephen Vincent Benét

"Visits to St. Elizabeths" by Elizabeth Bishop

"The City's Oldest Known Survivor of the Great War" by James Doyle

"Debridement" by Michael S. Harper

"Eight Air Force" by Randall Jarrell

"Armistice" by Sophie Jewett

"At a VA Hospital in the Middle of the United States of America: An Act in a Play" by Etheridge Knight

"The Traitor" by Sabrina Orah Mark

"Dreamers" by Siegfried Sassoon

"Troop Train" by Karl Shapiro

"Pacemaker" by W. D. Snodgrass

"Song of Napalm" by Bruce Weigl

Read more on poetryfoundation.org