The Art of Description

Option #1—

Read this poem by Brian Turner

The Baghdad Zoo

Is the world safer? No. It’s not safer in Iraq.
—Hans Blix

An Iraqi northern brown bear mauled a man
on a street corner, dragging him down an alley
as shocked onlookers shouted and threw stones.

Tanks rolled their heavy tracks
past the museum and up to the Ministry of Oil.
One gunner watched a lion chase down a horse.

Eaten down to their skeletons, the giraffes
looked prehistoric, unreal, their necks
too fragile, too graceful for the 21st Century.

Dalmatian pelicans and marbled teals
flew over, frightened by the rotorwash
of Blackhawk helicopters touching down.

One baboon escaped the city limits.
It was found wandering in the desert, confused
by the wind, the blowing sand of the barchan dunes.

Brian Turner served for seven years in the US Army and was an infantry team leader for a year in Iraq with the 3rd Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division.  Before that, he deployed to Bosnia-Herzegovina with the 10th Mountain Division.  In short, he clearly has the authority to write about the horrors of war.  But as we see in this poem, Brian Turner does not stray from an objective view; rather, he is a witness to the details of Baghdad in a time of war.

Please write 50-100 words about (1) how this poem and these descriptions make an argument about war, without him directly saying it.  (2) What do you think the argument is?  And finally, (3) what is the most compelling image of this poem to you and why?

Option #2—

Read this poem by James Wright:

Lying In A Hammock At William
Duffy’s Farm In Pine Island, Minnesota

Over my head, I see the bronze butterfly,
Asleep on the black trunk,
blowing like a leaf in green shadow.
Down the ravine behind the empty house,
The cowbells follow one another
Into the distances of the afternoon.
To my right,
In a field of sunlight between two pines,
The droppings of last year’s horses
Blaze up into golden stones.
I lean back, as the evening darkens and comes on.
A chicken hawk floats over, looking for home.
I have wasted my life.

Write a poem in the style of this poem.  You should use specific details to describe your location, as he does, and end with a declaration or THESIS.  Your title should be in the same style as this poem.  For example:

Sitting on My Balcony in Athens, Georgia

The poem needs not be longer than 8-15 lines.  But remember– be as detail specific as possible.  Make sure your reader can SEE what you are seeing.


If you take your poem home, work on it over the weekend, bring it back next week (Monday or Tuesday) and read it to the class, I will give you 5 points extra credit.