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War Poet

The Life of Alan Seeger and His Rendezvous with Death
Narrated by: Price Waldman
Length: 3 hrs and 53 mins
4 out of 5 stars (2 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

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. 

Drawing on new and important archival material, Michael Hill, author of Elihu Washburne: Diary and Letters of America's Minister to France During the Siege and Commune of Paris, paints a noble and poignant portrait of this little known but fascinating American poet.

©2018 Michael Hill (P)2018 Michael Hill

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It is written.

Born in New York, raised both there and in Mexico and attending university at Harvard, Alan Seeger grew up with an intense love of nature and, it would seem, a total belief in himself and what he expected from life. A romantic, a seeker and a poet, living on handouts, he sponged off his family and working friends for money ('I will not be a drudge'), finally persuading his parents to pay for him to go to Paris, the West Bank, home of many Bohemian artists, after having failed to find his inspiration in Greenwich Village. He sailed for France in 1912, found a cheap room with a view and at last he felt at home. 'I have been born anew,' he said, but soon had the reputation of being the poorest American in Paris as he failed to find a publisher for his slim volume of poems.
When war broke out in Europe two years later, he enlisted in the American division of the Foreign Legion to defend the city he loved and it was during his time awaiting the, to him, noble battle against the Germans that he wrote his famous poem, I Have A Rendezvous with Death, which put him into the annals of the Great War Poets.

This short biography of this rather strange man, incidentally uncle to the folk singer, Pete Seeger, is brief. Although littered with famous names, not much is said about Alan's actual nature, possibly because until he'd spent a considerable time in the army, he was thought by many to be rude, self centered and arrogant, keeping to himself alone in his room and refusing to talk to anyone except on his own terms. He died, aged 28, at the Somme, apparently delighted. The book concludes with a reading of his famous (short) poem. The narration throughout was excellent. Price Walman has a warm and pleasant voice with good intonation and pacing, a perfect choice to project a life story without intrusion.

My thanks to the rights ho!der of War Poet who, at my request, freely gifted me a complimentary copy, via Audiobook Boom. Although this reader would have preferred a little more in depth information of Seeger's pre military ideas, given the lack of communication he seemed to have had with almost everyone, perhaps this is unavailable. It was, however, a very interesting introduction to one of the World War One poets of whom I was previously unaware, probably because, being a Brit, we sadly have several masters in that field ourselves already. Too many dead.

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An life changed by war

I'll admit heading into this I only vaguely knew of Alan Seeger, and while I had heard his famous poem "I Have a Rendezvous with Death" I did not know it well. So the book drew me to it, because I am interested in World War One and stories of those involved, but not necessarily because of the person and the poetry.

The book gives a good retelling of who he was, where he came from and what shaped him. He came from a Harvard class full of now famous poets. Like many of his generation he went into the war with a much brighter view of war than most people have now. There was honour, wonder, hope and pride all in there. He joined the foreign legion, fighting as an American in the war, long before the US joined the war. Like much of his generation he lost that view thanks to the meat grinder of the war. And like many other, he lost his life to the war too. The story here shows what he went through and how it changed him. How at times he hoped to get out, and at others despaired. There is an interesting piece where his family was informed of his death, only to find out later (thanks to a letter from him) that they were informed incorrectly.

The question of what he would have become had he survived the war is a hard one to answer. He was talented and may well have become a even greater poet. But also much of his fame and importance now comes from the fact he did die in the war, much life his most famous poem promised.

The book may be small, but it is very interesting. A great look at the man, but also the war and how it changed people.

Narration by Price Waldman is good. Well paced, clear, he keeps your interest throughout. An enjoyable narrator.

Waldman also does a good reading of the poem at the end of the book.

This book was given to me for free at my request and I provided this review voluntarily.