Tyrone Area ninth graders perform World War I poetry

Remembering that the tragedies of history often are repeated by people who refuse to learn from the past, ninth grade English students at Tyrone High recently recalled the past by performing and interpreting poems by a doctor, captain, chaplain and soldier who fought in World War I.
“On this 86th anniversary of Veterans Day, Tyrone students decided to remember the November 11 Armistice of 1918 and also to honor veterans by performing and interpreting four poems by a doctor, captain, chaplain and soldier from the First World War,” said ninth grade English teacher Mr. Richard Merryman.
Eighty-six years after the close of The Great War, as part of their patriotic performance, Tyrone ninth graders once again repeated those emotional words of the Canadian Military Doctor John MaCrae: In Flanders Fields the poppies blow/Beneath the crosses, row on row/that mark our place, and in the sky/The larks, still bravely singing, fly/Scarce heard amid the guns below. Interpreting this poem, poetry historians often note the powerful image of the poppies that grew amid the graves of soldiers as described in these lines composed in May 1915 by Doctor McCrae as a tribute to his fallen friend, Lieutenant Alexis Helmer.
Also, ninth graders performed military captain Siegfried Sassoon’s touching poem titled Does It Matter? In that selection, a soldier lost his legs, eyes and dreams in brutal battle. Poet Sassoon agonized over that soldier’s loss, yet cautioned that sometimes civilians will forget the soldier sacrifices, sometimes causing the soldier to turn to alcohol to escape his sorrow. During his military life, Sassoon expressed his sorrow about World War I by throwing some of his wartime medals into the sea.
By contrast, ninth graders noted that military chaplain Geoffrey Kennedy approached World War I with a lighter touch than some poets of the period when they performed his poem titled The Spirit. Designed to increase soldiers’ morale as they marched in formation, Kennedy’s Spirit poem encouraged fighting men to carry on, even though they missed their sweethearts, their letters from home and their cigarette rations. At the close of his slightly humorous poem, Chaplain Kennedy became serious again and reminded soldiers that To do more than you can/ Is to be a British Man/Not just a rotten also ran.
Finally, ninth graders experienced the ultimate tragedy of War when they performed soldier Wilfred Owen’s touching poem titled Futility. In the piece Futility, Owen traced the tale of a teenage boy who grew up on a farm, enlisted in the war effort, then died in battle. As the poem progressed, Owen asked how The Kind Old Sun could cause the seeds to sprout, the earth to bloom, yet could not breath Life into the body of the fallen farm boy soldier. Sadly, soldier and poet Wilfred Owen died in battle on November 4, 1918, just one week before the signing of The Armistice to end the War.
“As our ninth grade World War I poetry performance fades into history, we thank Todd Boytim, Christopher Clark, Christopher Chamberlain, Sean Dickson, Aaron Houck, Francesca Lambert and Cassie Markel from the Tyrone Speech Team for coaching ninth graders about voice volume, voice speed, voice clarity, voice expression and punctuation pauses when they performed their poetry.
“As the sun sets on this 86th anniversary of Armistice or Veterans Day, by performing this poetry, we hope Tyrone ninth graders will remember the past, recognize our Veterans in the present, and rejoice in the promise of a future, where the words of their language can carry more power than either bullets or bombs.”