War Letters

 

While preparing props to use in the “In Flanders Fields” one-man show, I found on eBay a stash of twenty World War I era letters for a very reasonable price. I thought they'd be the perfect thing for stage dressing, and also to get an idea of the penmanship of the era. Learn more. . .

Books (World War I)

 

One of my current book projects grew out of a performance piece for four actors, originally given as part of National Poetry Month in April 2017, to mark the centenary of the United States' entry into World War I. Given at the Woodrow Wilson House in Washington, DC., it was titled “In Flanders Fields,” after the well-known poem by Colonel John McCrae of the Canadian Medical Corps.

 

While doing research for that piece, I found first the war-time letters and poems of Alan Seeger, and later the letters of Victor  Chapman.  Chapman's father John Jay Chapman, a prominent writer of the era who has fallen into undeserved obscurity, edited and published his son's letters in 1917. The elder Chapman's memoir of his son serves as preface to the book. I used selections from Chapman's memoir as explanatory narrative between some of his son's letters, and also interspersed a few excerpts from Chapman's own war-inspired poetry.

 

One of these poems, called “May 1917,” contained the line, “Those who heard the trumpet call,” which became the title of a collection of the Chapman and Seeger letters.

 

Would I had shared the fate

Of those who heard the trumpet-call

And rode upon the blast,—

Who stopped not to debate,

Nor strove to save,

But giving life, gave all,

Casting their manhood as a man might cast

A rose upon a grave.

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