American War Poetry

An Anthology

Edited by Lorrie Goldensohn

Columbia University Press

American War Poetry

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Pub Date: March 2006

ISBN: 9780231133104

448 Pages

Format: Hardcover

List Price: $65.00

American War Poetry

An Anthology

Edited by Lorrie Goldensohn

Columbia University Press

American War Poetry spans the history of the nation. Beginning with the Colonial Wars of the eighteenth-century and ending with the Gulf Wars, this original and significant anthology presents four centuries of American men and women-soldiers, nurses, reporters, and embattled civilians-writing about war. American War Poetry opens with a ballad by a freed African American slave commenting on a skirmish with Indians in a Massachusetts meadow. Poems on the American Revolution follow, as well as poems on "minor" conflicts like the Mexican War and the Spanish-American Wars. This compact anthology has generous selections on the Civil War, World Wars I and II, the Korean War, and the Vietnamese-American War, but it also includes an unusually large offering on American participation in the Spanish Civil War. Another section covers four hundred years of conflict with Native Americans, ending with poems by contemporary Indians who respond passionately and directly to their difficult history. The collection also reaches into current reaction to American involvement in Latin America, Bosnia, and the Gulf Wars.

Showing the depth of feeling and the range of thinking with which Americans have confronted war, American War Poetry expands our sense of what poetry is made to do. While the birth of a national identity is documented in early poems, the anthology also conveys the growing sophistication of a uniquely American style. Although early war poems show that the first justification for war was purely defensive, as American global ambitions matured, American writers moved increasingly to deplore a homegrown imperialism and its terrible costs. While many familiar poems of patriotic ardor have been chosen, other poems show a steady interest in antiwar themes. Lorrie Goldensohn provides a brief biography for each poet and places each poem in its proper literary and historical context. Comprehensive and compelling, American War Poetry not only documents the birth and development of a national style of expression but shows the force of poetry working on the historical moment, making it come vitally alive.

American War Poetry: An Anthology is an original and unprecedented event, assembling the poetry of war from the birth of the republic to the present imperial quest, and in reading this formidable symphony of utterance one cannot but admire the vision, critical acumen and scholarly rigor that brought so necessary a book into being. Lorrie Goldhensohn has given us an immense gift.

Carolyn Forché, author of Blue Hour: Poems

These fascinating poems... put into sharp relief America's complex, conflicted, and evolving attitudes toward war.


A sterling collection of verse from the colonial wars to today.

VVA Veteran

Original and significant.

[American War Poetry] offers the works of nearly 200 of America's greatest poets.

Library Journal

This unique, remarkable anthology of war poetry embraces every major conflict of the US... Essential.


American War Poetry is an essential anthology for these times, as well as one that will hold up well long after.

Kathleen Rooney, Harvard Review
The Colonial Wars, 1746–1763
The Revolutionary War, 1776–1783
The War of 1812
The Alamo and the Mexican-American War, 1836 and 1846–1848
The Civil War, 1861–1865
The Indian Wars, 1620–1911
The Spanish-American War, 1898
The War of the Philippines, 1899–1902
World War I, 1917–1918
The Spanish Civil War, 1936–1939
World War II, 1941–1945
The Korean War, 1950–1953
The Vietnam War, 1964–1975
El Salvador, Bosnia, Kosovo, Afghanistan, and the Persian Gulf
Biographies in Brief
Index of Poems and Poem Titles

CHOICE Outstanding Academic Title, 2006

About the Author

Lorrie Goldensohn is most recently the author of Dismantling Glory: Twentieth-Century Soldier Poetry, which was nominated for the 2004 National Book Critics Circle Award. Elizabeth Bishop: The Biography of a Poetry received a nomination for a Pulitzer Prize in 1990. Her poetry and critical essays have appeared in journals and periodicals since 1965.