Poetry, Cruelty, War and Peace

As Laura Tillotson reminded us, April is not only the cruellest month, it’s also National Poetry Month. Alas, poetry readership is at a 16-year low (“The End of Verse?” by Marc Bain, Newsweek). There are many things you can do to fight this depressing trend. You could take down that tattered copy of Robert Frost or E. E. Cummings. You could visit the library and browse the stacks. You could Google “good poem to read in April.” (Don’t do it!) Or, if the thought of all that is just too taxing, you could go to DailyLit and sign up for “Masters of Verse: Thirty Poems from Late, Great Poets.”

“Why, speaking of DailyLit,” you ask, “how’s War and Peace going?” Very well, thanks. I miss paper and margins and formatting and serifs and all that, but I just read installment 273 of 675. Great passage:

The Bible legend tells us that the absence of labor–idleness–was a condition of the first man’s blessedness before the Fall. Fallen man has retained a love of idleness, but the curse weighs on the race not only because we have to seek our bread in the sweat of our brows, but because our moral nature is such that we cannot be both idle and at ease. An inner voice tells us we are in the wrong if we are idle. If man could find a state in which he felt that though idle he was fulfilling his duty, he would have found one of the conditions of man’s primitive blessedness. And such a state of obligatory and irreproachable idleness is the lot of a whole class- the military. The chief attraction of military service has consisted and will consist in this compulsory and irreproachable idleness.



About the Author:

Keir Graff is Executive Editor of Booklist Publications and the author of five books. His most recent is the middle-grade novel, The Other Felix (2011). Follow him on Twitter at @Booklist_Keir.

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