This Tusitala conversation between Pam Hunter and Janet Lewison explores two AQA Anthology ‘Conflict’ poems in terms of how they give representation to war through their contrasting revisions of the past. The discussion focuses on the problematic representation of memory, power and suffering in these two poems and offers students and readers alike, plenty of ideas for examinations and essays.
So poetry because of its intensity and high degree of selectivity can make us review the past, even when we are least suspecting? And we can thus know our past in ways that we can never then ‘unknow’ as you say? Playing on tension between knowing and ignorance for I wonder if the act of knowing must carry with it responsibility?
That’s right, poetry is so intensely charged , as you say, and is able to bring us to a greater awareness. What do you think that sense of responsibility you talk of would prompt us to ‘know’ and ‘understand’? How best can we witness that responsibility?
In Mametz Wood the witnesses are included primarily in the poem and then we too as readers have to bear fresh witness too. Farmers replace generals in Mametz Wood. They are gentle excavators of the past: observers piecing together the residual traces of other lives, fragmented by those who had little respect for community and continuity, let alone the uniqueness of each soldier’s life.
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