Dr. Santosh Kumar: Literature as activism for peace – Undertones of War in Contemporary Poetry

by Dr. Santosh Kumar, India

Disgusted with the horrors of the Great War (1914-1918), the Georgian poets of England turned hopefully to the English countryside, the charms of childhood, sunsets and rural delights. Their work appeared in a series of five anthologies called Georgian Poetry, published by Harold Monro and edited by Edward Marsh. The Georgian poetry failed to achieve Yeats’ universality in “Eastern 1916”, but it was nevertheless honest, personal, direct and humanistic. The Georgian poets like W. H. Davies, John Drinkwater, Ralph Hodgson, James Elroy Flecker(1884-1915), Walter de la Mare, Edmund Blunden and Robert Bridges don’t reveal “a fresh exploration of reality.” For example, take the following lines from Flecker:

We who with songs beguile your pilgrimage
And swear that Beauty lives though lilies die,
We poets of the proud old lineage
Who sing to find your hearts, we know not why,-
What shall we tell you? tales, marvellous tales
Of ships and stars and isles where good men rest,
Where nevermore the rose of sunset pales,
And winds and shadows fall toward the West.
And how beguile you? Death has no repose
Warmer and deeper than that orient sand
Which hides the beauty and bright faith of those
Who made the Golden Journey to Samarkand.

— “ Golden Journey to Samarkand”

This extract from Flecker is sufficient to show that the Georgian poets failed to create the deep image that we find in T.S. Eliot and Ezra Pound. Just showing off with language never creates great poetry.

The Georgian poets, instead of revealing “the ache and sorrow of darkened earth”, concentrated on subjects like nature, love, leisure, old age, childhood, animals, sleep. Stephen Spender remarks that the Georgians were, of course, finished as an influence by the time of the Great War (“The Struggle of the Modern”).

As early as 1912, an impression got around that the Georgian poets have brought a revival of English poetry. In the Georgian anthologies, even T. S. Eliot made a single fugitive appearance. With the emergence of the Imagists like T. E. Hulme, Richard Aldington, H.D., T.S. Eliot and Ezra Pound, the rural and pastoral themes of the Georgians failed to appeal to the poetry-reading public. John Wain rightly remarks: “Once Europe was plunged into war and modernist movements of all kinds sprang up” (“Essays on Literature and Ideas”).

It might be added that we should never glorify war. It is not possible to agree with Rupert Brooke’s attitude toward war — that it is a noble and ‘cleansing experience.” Wilfred Owen and Siegfried Owen are the real poets of war as their poems reveal the barbarism and horrors of war.

The fact is that, nowadays, the dark clouds of nuclear war seem to threaten the very extinction of our beloved earth. It is very sad that with a global arsenal of more than thirty thousand nuclear weapons we have come very close to nuclear war. It is very necessary that the authors nowadays should expose the brutality and terror of war. Adam Donaldson Powell, Albert Russo, Azsacra Zarathustra, Ban’ya Natsuishi, Barbara Elizabeth Mercer, Diane Oatley, Dimitris P. Kraniotis, Eric Tessier, Floriana Hall, Frieda Groffy, James Skinner, Jan Oskar Hansen, Janet K. Brennan, John Mcdonald, Joseph Aprile, Joseph Spence, Sr., Louie Levy, María Cristina Azcona, Moshé Liba, R. Leland Waldrip, Roger W. Harrington, Sal Amico M. Buttaci, Sayumi Kamakura, Shirley Bolstok, Stephen Lloyd Smith, Teri Schwartz, Anil CS Rao, Yvonne Sparkes — these contemporary authors have always done their best through their works to create a better world to breathe in.

In my following poem, I have tried to state the contemporary situation and to envisage its development:

Vision of World Peace

In the newspapers
Never I find
Vision of world peace
Never I find the answer
Why the grass grows fair and green
Never I find
Acts of kindness and charity
Never I find
Any noble act by

The global community worldwide

In the newspapers
Always I find
NATO strikes again
2G scam
Collusive corruption
Gunshots fired
Children killed in bomb explosion
Spying, clandestine operations
Menace of terrorism
Ten members of a family
Jump to death in a canal
Student stabs teacher

In the newspapers
Never I find little
Acts of kindness and love

Hinder, prevent this
Or grant a time
When there is sweet spring
When our earth turns into a little paradise.

Nuclear weapons seduce dictators and fascists
The righteous are punished for speaking the truth
The eternal moral values no more exist
The wicked are cowards. They murder and are invisible.
The Almighty Lord will reincarnate
Universal brotherhood will be restored
Black clouds of terror and bloodshed vanish
If we hear God speaking to us
In our innermost heart
With God’s blessings
Light golden will guide us
Shield us from infernal fire
Tornado of chemical weapons
And nuclear radiation
Satanic slaughterhouse
Nightmare riding our conscience
Sinister conspiracy lethal
The devil is frightening father
Of nuclear warheads
Sincere prayer will annihilate the arch fiend
Monstrous venom is ever
Repulsed by the voice of Faith


Dr. Santosh Kumar (b. 1946) is a poet, short-story writer and an editor from UP India; DPhil in English; Editor of Taj Mahal Review and Harvests of New Millennium Journals; several awards; member of World Poets Society (W.P.S.); member of World Haiku Association, Japan; presented papers in the seminar, interviews as special guest at international literary festival WORDS – one path to peace and understanding Oslo, Norway in September 2008; attended 20th Annual International Literary Festival Druskininkai Poetic Fall and 5th World Haiku Association Conference in Lithuania, Sept 30 to Oct 5, 2009; published poetry in Indian Verse by Young Poets (1980), World Poetry (1995 & 1996), The Fabric of A Vision (2001), The Still Horizon (2002), The Golden Wings (2002), Voyages (2003), Symphonies (2003), New Pegasus (2004), Explorers (2004), Dwan (USA), Promise (Purple Rose Publications, USA), World Haiku 2008 No. 4, World Haiku 2009 No. 5, Taj Mahal Review (2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007 & 2008). He has also edited sixteen World Poetry Anthologies, and four books of World’s Great Short Stories. He is also the author of a collection of poems entitled Helicon (Cyberwit, India, ISBN 81-901366-8-2), Haiku collection New Utopia (Rochak Publishing, India ISBN 978-81-903812-0-8), NO NUKES: Brave New World of Beauty, A Long Narrative Poem, Songs of Peace & Haiku (Rochak Publishing, India ISBN 978-81-903812-3-9), and Critical Essays in collaboration with Adam Donaldson Powell (Cyberwit, India, 978-81-8253-110-9). He has also edited The Poetic Achievement of Ban’ya Natsuishi (Cyberwit, India, ISBN: 978-81-8253-149-9).

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