Poetry- An Unknown Trench, Verdun 1916

An Unknown Trench, Verdun 1916

If ever I had known or guessed
Our paths would lead us here,
With you I never would have stayed,
Despite our bond so dear.

Had I known the wounds of shrapnel
Or screams of dying men,
I would undo the choices made
That led to here, Hell’s den.

No friendship here could be enough
To cause me to return,
If I could flee this wretched place
And all my fears unlearn.

But time can never be regained.
Old paths will not come back.
Here in the trenches we remain
While overhead guns crack.

I never could have known or guessed
Our paths would lead us here.
Yet here we are and so we stay,
Our bond against our fears.

A/N: I’m going to be revising this poem, as it’s another I wrote for poetry class, and would like some feedback- I’ve been told the language is too generic, so does anyone else have any other thoughts on what could use work? It would be greatly appreciated. Thank you for reading!

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9 thoughts on “Poetry- An Unknown Trench, Verdun 1916

  1. hi! I just read you’re poem and wanted to respond, as you asked.

    I do actually agree that the language is a bit generic:

    “Had I known the wounds of shrapnel
    Or screams of dying men,
    I would undo the choices made
    That led to here, Hell’s den.”

    When I read this I don’t actually get the sense of mortal wounds, or hell’s den. It might be better to try to describe the wound itself: show, don’t tell. what do screaming dying men sound like? is it high pitched? low pitched, do they gurgle sometimes? what does a shrapnel wound look like? does it spurt or rip a leg apart? does flesh fly apart? you know what I mean. well, i dont really know any of those things. but you get the picture. I think that could help.

    Also: listen to this (not to make this too long):

    “Where are we? What is that? Where has our dream brought us? Dusk, rain, and mud, fire reddening a murky sky that bellows incessantly with dull thunder, the damp air rent by piercing, singsong whines and raging, onrushing, hellhound howls that end their arc in a splintering, spraying fire crash filled with groans and screams, with brass blaring, about to burst, and drumbeats urging onward, faster, faster.” -Start of last section of “The Magic Mountain” by Thomas Mann. Isn’t that descriptive and oddly great? Maybe it could help, I dunno. If you get a chance, read that last section. You may have already, not trying to be like, pushy.

    -Tim

    • Thank you so much! I completely agree that the language is generic, which is why I need help improving it. I’m really not much of a poet, so this whole class is rather unfamiliar ground for me.
      I’ll try and work on getting some more concrete images in there. My main difficulty was that I had only twenty lines, but that’s not really an excuse for how much I told and didn’t show.
      I have never read “The Magic Mountain” but it sounds like I may have to give it a glance. The description in it alone sounds wonderful; it should be a help.

      Thanks so much for taking the time to respond in such detail! It really means a lot to me as I try to get better.

      • Awesome!

        Good luck to you. 20 lines is indeed very limiting. 🙂

        Yeah The Magic Mountain is awesome. It’s like 700 pages, and sometimes a bit dry, but it’s a great book. Also a beautiful chapter on being lost and almost dying in a snowstorm in there, too.

          • It’s actually a mindblowing book if you follow along and keep up with thinking it through. —>

            “At 14, [Susan] Sontag read Thomas Mann’s masterpiece, “The Magic Mountain.” “I read it through almost at a run. After finishing the last page, I was so reluctant to be separated from the book that I started back at the beginning and, to hold myself to the pace the book merited, reread it aloud, a chapter each night.” (L.A. Times Obituary)

            Regardless of whether you like(d) her or not, I completely agree with this, except I have no desire to read something that long aloud. I personally read it through at a run as well a couple (well like 5) winters back. Agree. Except I’m older than 14.

  2. I think it is really very good! I don’t think I’ve read anything war related that basically says “I would totally scrap our friendship to get out of this mess.” You normally hear people playing up bonds, while this voice would trade his friend for a quick pass out! I don’t really think it’s lacking in vocab, but maybe I’m too simple 🙂 I might change the line “While overhead guns crack.” to “While guns o’erhead do crack” just because it seems less halting to me, though the style may not fit as well.

    • Thank you so much! I need to do some revisions to it for the poetry class and I have to admit it’s sort of stumping me, mostly because of the twenty-line limit. But I’m really glad you liked it!

  3. You’re doing good! I would still try to keep the images simple and metaphoric. I like your new poems a lot because of that and you seem to put a lot of thought and imagery into those poems. Messages should be simple and yet offer a lot, Someone being (slightly) vague gives readers lots of room for thought. Not knowing quite what to read or infer into a poem is something great, I’m not the best critic but run with it all!!
    -tim

    • Thank you so much! I’m glad there’s been some improvement- imagery is probably my favorite part of writing a poem, because there’s room for others to see and derive their own meanings from it. Thanks so much for being so encouraging! It means a lot.

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