March 26_Antietam

See the Tupelo Press 30/30 Project to read the poems for March 26, 2014 by scrolling down to “Day 26/Poems 26” and of course, to read my poem: Antietam Battlefield Museum / by John C. Mannone

Backstory to “Antietam Battlefield Museum”:

I had mentioned the 1862 Battle of Antietam in Sharpsburg, MD during the Civil War (see March 10, “Prelude to War). From my journal notes that I recorded in June 2013, these five short poems (arranged as one poem here) emerged. It’s amazing how a few sentences can jog so much detail from the memory of that trip last summer. And as then, I now also weep as I recall the details of that horrific battle.

Besides the historical truths, there are a few crafting items about each part worth mentioning.

In “Flowers,” I was struck by the stark contrast between the beauty of flowers and the ugliness of the cannon, a synecdoche (or metonymy) for war that was just outside the visitor center and museum. I don’t know the names of the flowers, but I took some poetic license in the two chosen for the poem: the Black-eyed Susan happens to be the MD State flower, and the Bluebell is a subtle allusion to VA (because of the Virginia Bluebell). The conflict at Antietam involved McClellan’s Army of the Potomac and Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia. So the flowers allude to both states. But there is subtext in those flowers: “sulfur yellow” goes to the foul stench of burnt gunpowder and “bluebells” goes to sadness in both liberty and death. Even the flower parts allude to war (“Slender stems shoot up all around”). I try to follow through the irony seen in the flowers and the cannon to the senses of the narrator.

2. “Exhibits” moves the reader to inside where the echoes of the cannons continue with the “shadows from the past” which become pathetic fallacies.

3. The poem, “Behind the Glass Encasements,” continues, as does the other parts, with the tour inside the museum. There is more pathetic fallacy here, especially with the subliminal for mettle (metal). The ending was designed to make us think beyond the sepia (which hints at blood) and to the black & white. ironically, there was nothing just black & white about the Civil War, “pun” intended.

4. “Bullets” is graphic and ironic; I won’t say anymore right now.

5. “The Mural at Antietam” might have been one of my most moving experiences there. The most significant crafting issue in this poem is the effective (enjambed) line breaks.

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