Thursday, May 12, 2011

The War Between The Poets

CGP student Julie Broadbent conceived of a “poetry blast” to recollect the Civil War.
When most people think about the Civil War, they think of Gettysburg, Abraham Lincoln and the freeing of the slaves.  It’s a topic that’s been heavily researched, written about and the subject of movies such as “Glory,” “Gods and Generals,” and “Gettysburg.”
For Cooperstown Museum Studies graduate student Julie Broadbent, it’s best represented in poetry.
While browsing through the archives at the New York State Historical Association, she found an anonymous poem, written about a Southern woman living in Ohio during Confederate Brig. Gen. John Hunt Morgan’s attack.  The woman is torn between her Southern heritage and her Ohio upbringing as she tends to the wounded from both sides.
 “It was an extremely personal conflict,” Broadbent explained.  “She saw both sides as human, and she wanted to heal them all and send them home.”
She will be reading that poem at the “War Between the Poets” poetry slam, at 5 p.m. Saturday, May 14, held at the NYSHA library.
The poetry slam will feature original poetry as well as classics from such poets as Walt Whitman.  All members of the community are invited to participate.  The slam will showcase the performance, rather than the straight reading, of these poems, and performances are limited to four minutes.  The poem must utilize a documented source, costumes are encouraged and the five judges will be picked out of the audience to rate each performance on a 1-10 scale, dropping the highest and lowest scores.  In the event of a tie, the audience will decide on the winner, and prizes will be given..
But why the Civil War?
“The Civil War touches on issues that are still very prevalent today – race, economics and class conflict,” Broadbent said.  “As manufacturing jobs started disappearing, there was a depression, a sense of “what comes next?” 
Of course, race was and still is an issue, and the abolishment of slavery was a huge upheaval to the African American community, allowing them more resources to make their own social stratus – of course, Jim Crow laws immediately tightened this freedom after Reconstruction.”
“There is still a conflict,” Broadbent said.  “There are still huge inequalities and still tensions.”
In addition, gender roles were redefined in the Civil War.  As men went to war, women had to take over as farmers, and the classic images of Florence Nightingale and Clara Barton as nursemaids to the wounded help change the landscape of nursing as a predominantly male career into the “feminized” industry it is today.  And with so many soldiers not coming home, women were either widowed or didn’t marry.
It’s been 150 years since the start of the Civil War, but for Julie Broadbent, a single anonymous poem brought it all home.  The “War Between the Poets” poetry slam is to raise awareness of this anniversary, as New York state isn’t having an formal reflections or celebrations.  “I want to bring these issues – race, gender, class and economics – to the forefront,” she said.
For complete rules or more information, please contact Julie Broadbent at

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