A couple-three days ago, I blogged about a book titled Puptent Poets that I lucked upon in a used bookstore. It’s the genuine article, the real thing, from 1945, with old newsprint paper. It’s even got a torn couple of pages where a previous owner had tried to slit two pages apart but probably used a finger rather than the requisite blade. Such character in this particular book I’ve got in my hands. I really ought to put it in an archival plastic sleeve.
The reason I say “the real thing” is that Puptent Poets has evidently been reissued within recent time, sez Amazon. In 2002, to be precise. And with an “improved" cover. (On the left below is the redesigned 2002 cover, on the right the original 1945 cover.) The title of the book is certainly easier to read in the new cover; in the original one, the letters spelling out “Puptent Poets” blend into the map behind them. Nevertheless, I’m still partial to the old cover. Though, undoubtedly, the paper of the reissue will last longer than the paper in my 1945 book. (By the way, Amazon also has for sale the old Puptent Poets.)
I’m subtitling today's post “Intro” because I thought I’d show you the Foreword of the book. The story of how Puptent Poetry came to be is fascinating. (This is in italics because the foreword is italicized in the book.)
Here’s the first poem in the book; I’m guessing this sonnet has pride of place, on a page by itself, because it also functions as a kind of intro.
When I was researching the poetry of the Vietnam war for my book Radical Visions, I often found references to poems in Stars and Stripes — just references, mostly, not actual quotations of poems — and usually scholars would say those poems were gung-ho, pro-war, unlike, say, the best work of Wilfred Owen. Well, looking at this poem that’s walking point in Puptent Poets, it would seem this scholarly viewpoint is a bit off the mark, at least in the WWII context. While Private Nantell is no Wilfred Owen, antiwar sentiment is shared by the two poets.
Nantell’s sonnet starts off in the manner of John Clare, in couplets or pairs of rhymed lines. In the poem’s opening, Nantell displays quite a bit of acumen about WWII’s political relationship to WWI. At the beginning of line 9, at the volta or turn employed by Petrarch in his Italian sonnet, the form of the poem changes in a savvy-filled switch to an envelope quatrain (abba), used often by Petrarch. And then Nantell returns in lines 13 and 14 to Clare’s couplets. My point is a simple one: Nantell is no slouch in his “sonnet-ing”; this private knows his prosody. One revealing gesture occurs in the line “soldiers die by soldiers’ hands”; since there is no identification here of the various sides of friend and foe, Nantell is suggesting that soldiers are soldiers, regardless of which side they fight on — a theme that is parallel to WWI verse by Owen and Siegfried Sassoon and others. Nantell, he the man.
Okay, enough analysis. As the book’s Foreword says, “Poetry critics were not allowed on the premises” when Puptent Poets was being put together in the Mediterranean editorial offices of The Stars and Stripes. As in my previous post about this anthology, I’ve made no corrections to either the poem or the foreword. Watch for more on Puptent Poets soon.
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Ingat, everyone. ヅ
Note: the first post about the Puptent Poets anthology can be read here.
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