In English we have been reading All Quiet on the Western Front and have just finished it up. Currently, AP Euro has been easing into World War I, the subject of the novel. One of the assignments given to us in English was to create a found poem drawing words and phrases from “Dreamers,” “The Conscript,” “Break of Day in the Trenches,” and “Dulce et Decorum Est.” The picture above was what my group came up with.
The poem says,
What do you see in our eyes?
Firelit homes, clean beds, and wives?
The old lie, “Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori” limps on.
The bodies of men drop and are ever dropping,
Guttering, choking, and drowning.
A devil’s sick of sin,
Of mangled limps, blind eyes, or a darkened brain.
Before my helpless sight, I shudder as I see,
Cadaverous citizens of death’s gray land.
To children ardent for some desperate glory,
Now you have touched the shrieking iron and flame.
I found a great pleasure in doing the found poem. It was enjoyable to take words and phrases and completely change the meaning. Many of our lines were combining two separate phrases such as “Now you have touched the shrieking iron and flame.” From “Break of Day in the Trenches” we combined, “Now you have touched this English hand,” and “At the shrieking iron and flame.”
The main idea we wanted to incorporate was the incredibly harsh realities of war. All Quiet on the Western Front is a great read for some gruesome imagery and descriptions from the viewpoint of a soldier. The narrator, Paul, repeatedly expresses this type of separation from those the first hand experiences on the front lines and those without. It’s something that ordinary civilians or new recruits would not understand. It reminds me of this scene in Attack on Titan (excuse the excessive amount of references) when the new recruits of the 104th trainees squad were receiving their first assessment from the instructor. Keith Shadis went around to the recruits screaming at them calling them worse than cattle and other patronizing insults. According to one of the older members, it was a “rite of passage” to make the new recruits abandon who they were and have them be built up from the ground as pure soldiers. However, the instructor skipped some people because they have already received their “rite of passage” by most likely having already experienced the horrors of the titans. The main character who watched his mother be eaten was of those people. “You can see it in their eyes,” mentioned the older member.
And so, our poem takes the viewpoint of a veteran soldier speaking to some youngins and shattering their inaccurate glorification of fighting a war. Lines of imagery such as “Guttering. choking drowning,” shows remnants of possible PTSD that the soldier may be suffering with. The images are still replaying in his head, something not able to easily be forgotten. We derived the “What Do You See?” title from this concept. One of my favorite lines, “A devil’s sick of sin” shows that even Satan himself would be overwhelmed and sickened by the amount of killing and bloodshed occurring on the battlefield. It became that bad. The word choice “shrieking” is used as if the iron and flames are even asking for help.
Artistically, we chose to draw half of the head with a focus on the eyes, relating to the title and for me, the idea of a certain look in your eyes that develop from the traumatic experiences. The “shrieking iron and flame” are represented in the eyes and give it a sort of hypnotized look, adding on to the PTSD references. In addition, the poem is depicted on his helmet to show the mental struggles. In the novel, the main characters were fighting for the German army and so we decided to add the German flag in the background to make the image pop and add some more color. The iron also in the shape of a cross for the German Iron Crosses.
Overall, I am quite fond and satisfied with our final look and presentation.