Armistice Day, Poetry and Poppies — Veterans Day started out as Armistice Day, which is why it is celebrated on the eleventh day of November. The armistice agreement that marked the end of World War I took effect on the “eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month” of 1918. Initially Armistice Day commemorated all those who lost their lives during World War I. After World War II, the United States changed the name of the holiday to Veterans Day while in Great Britain and most of the Commonwealth Nations, the name was changed to Remembrance Day.
Although the term Armistice Day is not widely used today, the term lives on in the world of poetry. In 1915, three years before the signing of the armistice agreement, a Canadian physician and soldier with the Allied Forces named John McCrae wrote a poem titled “In Flanders Field” in which he expressed his grief over the death of a fellow soldier who died in the Second Battle of Ypres. His friend was buried in a field in Flanders, which is located in Belgium. The poem begins with the line “In Flanders fields the poppies blow/Between the crosses, row on row.” This poem came to be associated with Armistice Day, and it started the connection between Armistice Day and poppies. In 1919, an American poet named Moina Michael wrote a poem in response to McCrae’s poem. She called her poem “We Shall Keep the Faith,” and in it she vowed to wear a red poppy in honor of those who died during World War I. Because of these two poets, poppies are now associated with Armistice Day, Remembrance Day, and Veterans Day.
My father was an avid gardener, and his favorite flowers to grow were poppies. He planted poppies all around the home were I grew up in the mountains of Colorado. My father was also a veteran. He served in the Air Force during the Korean War era. As we commemorate the service of our veterans, my thoughts turn to my father. He died on Thanksgiving nearly two years ago, but the poppies he planted live on. For John McCrae, the poppies in Flanders field represented the life spirit of his fallen friend. For me, the poppies that still grow in my Colorado home represent the most important veteran in my life—my father, Walter West.
Kudos— As you know, I like to use my Monday Missives to share news about recent accomplishments by members of our department. Here is the latest news:
Nancy Gutierrez delivered her presidential address at the Annual Meeting of the Council of Colleges of Arts and Sciences in San Antonio, Texas, on November 7. Titled “Storytelling and the Deanship,” her address explored the relationship between effective leadership and the ability to construct meaningful narratives.
Juan Meneses presented a paper titled “Divided and Doubled: The Modernist Character as Postcolonial Model” at the Modernist Studies Association conference in Pittsburgh.
Alan Rauch delivered a paper titled “Taking the ‘***perature’ of Interdisciplinary Studies: What Happened to the ‘TEM’ in STEM?” at the National Collegiate Honors Council Meeting, which took place in Denver.
Daniel Shealy presented the keynote address to open the “Concord and Abraham Lincoln Exhibit & Lecture Series” on November 7 at the Concord Free Public Library in Concord, MA. His presentation was “‘The pulse of twenty millions throbbing in his heart’: Abraham Lincoln and Concord’s Civil War.”
Lara Vetter served as invited respondent to a session titled “The Project of Digitizing the Texts of Modernist American Women Poets: Editing, Annotating, Re-evaluating, and the Pedagogy of Making It New” at the Modernist Studies Association conference on November 9, 2014.
Upcoming Events and Deadlines— Here are some dates to keep in mind:
November 12 — On Wednesday, November 12, 12-4pm Sarah Minslow’s War and Genocide in Children’s Literature class is hosting “Be a Piece of Peace,” a rally for peace on the fields in front of Robinson Hall at the main entrance to campus from University City Boulevard. There will be live entertainment, trivia, face painting, book and poetry readings, crafts, and free food. Please stop by and encourage your students to stop by.
November 13th — The ELC is holding the second Engagement Seminar with Henry Doss this Thursday at 3:30 in the Fretwell Faculty Lounge.
Quirky Quiz Question — The English department includes veterans among the faculty. Can you name them?
Last Quirky Quiz answer – Bill O’Reilly