WAR POET: THE LIFE OF ALAN SEEGER AND HIS RENDEZVOUS WITH DEATH
Michael Hill, author
WAR POET is a biography of American poet, Alan Seeger, killed at the battle of the Somme in July 1916 and author of "I Have a Rendezvous with Death," the favorite poem of President John F. Kennedy and one of the most powerful and memorable war poems of all time. When first published in the fall of 1916, Seeger became an instant hero in America and, in Europe, many compared him to the martyred British poet Rupert Brooke. His death was seen by many as "one of the most romantic incidents of the war" and declared his poetry "the authentic voice of ... war's ennobling glory." Theodore Roosevelt called Seeger a "gallant, gifted young man ... A dreamer of dreams, whose deeds made his death nobly good." Even after the Great War ended the memory of Seeger and his poem did not die, with literary allusions to his work and his "rendezvous with death" making their way into the works of such writers as F. Scott Fitzgerald and Ernest Hemingway. With a single poem, Alan Seeger entered the pantheon of history's greatest war poets. Even now, over one hundred years later, it is a work of power and magic which still resonates through generation after generation of Americans.
In this enlightening look at the life of American poet Alan Seeger (1888–1916), historian Hill (Elihu Washburne) chronicles the events that influenced this important but now little-remembered voice. Hill follows Seeger from his boyhood in New York City and Cuernavaca, Mexico, to his formative years attending Harvard and, postgraduation, moving to Greenwich Village to pursue a career as a poet. Seeger, Hill shows, truly blossomed as a writer after deciding to move to France. He also felt a profound affinity for his newly adopted country and, upon the outbreak of WWI, enthusiastically enlisted in the Foreign Legion. What follows is the heart of Hill’s account, as Seeger entered a period of prolific writing both in anticipation of and during his service. Hill does an admirable job tracing Seeger’s journey up to his death at the Somme in 1916 and includes photographs of Seeger at various points in his life, and of some of the places he saw, which help the reader better understand Seeger’s world. Hill also shares some of the poet’s best works, including the piece referenced in the book’s subtitle, “I Have a Rendezvous with Death,” reportedly John F. Kennedy’s favorite poem. A wonderful introduction to a fine poet, this slim volume will bring Seeger’s work to a new generation of readers. (BookLife)