War, huh! What is it Good For? An Introduction to War Poetry Purpose

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War, HUH! What is it Good For?


  • War is a topical subject now more than ever.
  • We will be looking at different attitudes to do with war.
  • Creative writing – you, yes you, will be producing a piece of creative writing at the end of the unit as practice for the exam.

M i n d M a p

  • Death
  • WW1
  • Honour
  • Horror
  • Bravery
  • Heroism
  • WW2
  • Politics
  • IRAQ
  • WAR
  • Holocaust
  • Trenches
  • Duty
  • Suicide
  • terrorism
  • George, Tony
  • Saddam, Bin
  • Winston, Hitler, and
  • The gang

Group Discussion

  • What is heroism?
  • What do you think public attitude is towards war/soldiers?
  • Is war ever justified?
  • Describe the traditional view of war and make reference to For The Fallen in your answer.
  • With proud thanksgiving, a mother for her children, England mourns for her dead across the sea. Flesh of her flesh they were, spirit of her spirit, Fallen in the cause of the free.
  • Solemn the drums thrill: Death August and royal Sings sorrow up into immortal spheres. There is music in the midst of desolation And a glory that shines upon our tears.
  • They went with songs to the battle, they were young, Straight of limb, true of eye, steady and aglow. They were staunch to the end against odds uncounted: They fell with their faces to the foe.
  • They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old: Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn. At the going down of the sun and in the morning We will remember them.
  • They mingle not with their laughing comrades again; They sit no more at familiar tables of home; They have no lot in our labour of the day-time; They sleep beyond England's foam.
  • But where our desires are and our hopes profound, Felt as well-spring that is hidden from sight, To the innermost heart of their own land they are known As the stars are known to the Night;
  • As the starts that shall be bright when we are dust, Moving in marches upon the heavenly plain; As the stars that are starry in the time of our darkness, To the end, to the end they remain.
  • September 1914 Laurence Binyon (1869-1943)

Ideas in For the Fallen

  • Look at each stanza of the poem and write in your own words what the poet is saying about the dead soldiers.
  • When you are writing your story you must consider what message you are trying to convey. How are you going to portray conflict.
  • On June 8, 1972, children and their families fled the village of Trang Bang down Route-1, their bodies seared by napalm. The young girl screaming, in particular, was etched onto the world's mind by the photograph of Huynh Cong 'Nick' Ut, an AP photographer.
  • The girl was Phan Thi Kim Phuc.
  • Kim went on to survive although it took 14 months of painful rehabilitation to treat the third degree burns that was over more than half of her body.
  • Kim is now a Canadian citizen and shares her thoughts on survival and inspiration. She has traveled all over the world, meeting and talking with people about peace. She is now a Goodwill Ambassador for the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).

“Suicide in the Trenches” Siegfried Sassoon

        • I knew a simple soldier boy Who grinned at life in empty joy, Slept soundly through the lonesome dark, And whistled early with the lark. In winter trenches, cowed and glum, With crumps and lice and lack of rum, He put a bullet through his brain. No one spoke of him again. You smug-faced crowds with kindling eye Who cheer when soldier lads march by, Sneak home and pray you'll never know The hell where youth and laughter go.

The Horrors of War

  • We have examined the old fashioned ideas of war as a heroic and honourable activity that people should be more than happy to take part in.
  • Now let us look at more modern perspectives. Why do you think our views have changed?
  • What role does play in the changing of our attitudes?
  • What different types of media do we have available to us?
  • Does the media have a responsibility to report? Do they have a bias?
  • What kind of bias do you bring to your writing?
  • Officer (to boy of thirteen who, in his effort to get taken on as a bugler, has given his age as sixteen). “Do you know where boys go who tell lies?” Applicant, “To the Front, Sir”

War Photographer - Carol Anne Duffy

  • In his darkroom he is finally alone
  • With spools of suffering set out in ordered rows.
  • The only light is red and softly glows,
  • As though this were a church and he
  • A priest preparing to intone a Mass.
  • Belfast. Beirut. Phom Penh. All flesh is grass.
  • He has a job to do. Solutions slop in trays
  • Beneath his hands which did not tremble then
  • Though seem to now. Rural England. Home Again
  • To ordinary pain which simple weather can dispel,
  • To fields which don’t explode beneath the feet
  • Of running children in a nightmare heat.
  • Something is happening. A stranger’s features
  • Faintly start to twist before his eyes,
  • A half-formed ghost. He remembers the cries
  • Of this man’s wife, how he sought approval
  • Without words to do what someone must
  • And how the blood stained into foreign dust.
  • A hundred agonies in black-and-white
  • From which his editor will pick out five or six
  • For Sunday’s supplement. The reader’s eyeballs prick
  • With tears between the bath and pre-lunch beers.
  • From the Aeroplane he stares impassively at where
  • He earns his living and they do not care.
  • Discussion points
  • Write in your own words what you think the photographer is doing in each verse. What is he thinking?
  • Look at the first verse carefully. The writer uses an interesting simile. What is this simile and why has the writer chosen to use it here.
  • Discuss why you think the author is using a religious comparison?
  • What does the photographer think of the British way of life in stanza two? How does he use the weather as a metaphor to compare England and Vietnam?
  • What two main events is the photographer thinking about in particular that he witnessed?
  • In stanza three what is happening? There are a number of possibilities. Why is the word ‘ghost’ appropriate?
  • What are the ‘hundred agonies’ in verse four? Who do the agonies belong to?
  • What happens to the photographer’s photos?
  • How does the photographer view his audience?
  • What is the poem’s rhyme scheme? How is this an comparison in itself?
  • What other contrasts or exist in the poem that we have not discussed?


  • Since you will be writing a creative piece inspired by the work we have covered in class. You should produce for the next time I see you at least four paragraphs of a first person monologue written from the perspective of the war photographer. You may wish to think about:
  • How he has been affected by what he has seen
  • How he views his job.
  • His family background. How his job affects them
  • The kinds of situations he has been in

The Deserter


  • Directions after reading The Deserter :
  • Highlight words associated with war in the colour red.
  • Highlight words associated with emotions in blue.

The Deserter

          • "I'm sorry I done it, Major.“
          • We bandaged the livid face;
          • And led him out, ere the wan sun rose,
          • To die his death of disgrace.
          • The bolt-heads locked to the cartridge;
          • The rifles steadied to rest,
          • As cold stock nestled at colder cheek
          • And foresight lined on the breast.
          • "Fire!" called the Sergeant-Major.
          • The muzzles flamed as he spoke;
          • And the shameless soul of a nameless man
          • Went up in the cordite-smoke.
  • Come up with
  • synonyms in groups!

Library Activity

  • Have students go to library and search for pictures of trench warfare and of soldiers during WWI.
  • Ask students to print out the photo they find the most interesting.

Writing Activity

  • Introduce writing from pictures to class.
  • Ask students to write an essay on their picture, they may choose to use information given in class about WWI notes on group discussions of poems.
  • Students of higher ability may choose to write a creative piece where a character is facing a moral dilemma.
  • The end

Photograph of Soldier

  • Directions:
  • Look at photograph of Soldier. List words that describe him.
  • What is unusual about the picture?

Discussion on Poem

  • Divide class into groups, and assign roles (chairman, reporter, scribe, member).
  • Give each group a different set of 2 questions each.
  • Rearrange groups so that a representative from each group can share their ideas with members of other groups.
  • Have students report back to class.
  • Questions should be on the themes of: Honour, Death/Suicide, Conditions in Trenches (i.e. shell shock), & people at home.

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