War Poetry Essay Questions

Instructor: Clio Stearns

Clio has taught education courses at the college level and has a Ph.D. in curriculum and instruction.

Reading war poetry can be an important way for students to understand the role of war in the lives of individuals and groups. This lesson offers essay topics that will help students think more deeply about war poetry.

Writing About War Poetry

Are you trying to get your students to understand war on a deeper and more critical level? Or maybe you are teaching a unit on poetry, and you want students to think about the way poetry interacts with history, society and culture. Either way, it can be very meaningful to have students read war poetry. Essentially, war poetry is any poetry written in the context of wartime. Sometimes, war poets are directly involved in wars, while other times, they are writing from the sidelines.

To help your students form a deep analysis of war poetry, you can assign essays about different topics. As with any essays, those about war poetry will help students articulate their theories and back them up with textual evidence. The questions in this lesson prompt students to think deeply about war poetry, and can be applied to many different specific poems or sets of poems.

Themes in War Poetry

Here, you will find topics that push students to think about the abiding themes in war poetry.

  • After reading war poetry from several different poets and contexts, try to define one underlying theme that holds them all together in spite of differences. Write an essay defining this theme and showing what different poets communicate in their war poetry with regard to the theme.
  • Describe the salience of violence and brutality as a theme in war poetry from different contexts. What is uniquely poetic about the way this genre can comment on these difficult themes? What are some of the different ways that poets deal with brutality and violence, and how do you react to these themes as a reader of poetry/
  • Choose two different war poems that deal with themes related to national identity and pride. Compare and contrast the ways that the poets you have chosen comment on and deal with this theme. Speculate as to the reasons behind the similarities and differences you pinpoint.
  • How have war poets dealt with the theme of loss in their work? What are some of the different poetic tools and images that convey a sense of loss, and why might it be meaningful or important to deal with this theme in poetry?

Emotions in War Poetry

This section offers a series of questions about the kinds of emotions and affects students observe throughout their reading of war poetry.

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