When I was in high school in the late 1970s, my English class did a unit on war poetry. I remember reading Allen Tate’s “Ode to the Confederate Dead,” Randall Jarrell’s “Death of a Ball-Turret Gunner,” and Richard Lovelace’s “To Lucasta, on going to war”: “I could not love thee, dear, so well lov’d I not honour more.” (Who’s Honor Moore?, was our juvenile joke.)

We also read a number of poems by Wilfred Owen (1893–1918). I now know this was partly because by the Sixties, when our teacher would have been training to teach us, Wilfred Owen had become the anti-war poet, the poet of pity enshrined in Benjamin Britten’s War Requiem (1962). Hatred of war was obviously an essential part of our education: to our teachers’ horror, we knew nothing about Vietnam—my class was the first one they’d had who...


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