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by Michael Thorsnes, published
Credit: US Army


By now, as a visitor to the Artist's Corner, you have had a chance to read “Distant Bells,” a poem which secured for me the designation of Poet Laureate for the Kerry Presidential Campaign in 2003. When first posted on this site, “Distant Bells” did not have the second page attached. That has been remedied and if, by chance you have not read the entire poem, you should do so now. Before discussing the second poem, “Honor,” I believe a brief visit to the subject of how a poem should be read is in order.

I regard poetry as a “spoken” art, and as such, always prefer that the poem be read aloud, even if I am reading it to myself. My second preference is that it be read not once, but twice. The first reading is like a scouting party, where you look for the major points of the poem. By the time you finish the second reading, you have really found a new friend and have developed your understanding of the nuances intended by the author.

For that reason “Distant Bells” is only one of two poems I've written that exceed one page in length (see, I did make it tie in). It was, and is in my judgment a very powerful poem, made even more so by the fact that it rhymes in a somewhat classic tradition.

Those who think of it as an anti-war poem are correct. Those who see it as an anti-military poem are wrong. I respect the military greatly, and, in fact have devoted half my anthology to poetry “on the theme of war”. That fact is amply demonstrated in a second poem submitted to you, “Honor.”

As you can see, I have developed a method of bringing my poems to life by the inclusion of photography on the poem itself. Also included  ordinarily is a gold seal stamped with either a stamp used in the campaign (for political poetry), or later identifying me as a recipient of the Robert A. MacNamara Award for Literature and the Arts, and as a poet.

The poem “Honor” is adorned by a photograph of the Medal of Honor of the United States, its proper title. It represents an overwriting goal of my poetry, brevity. It seeks to thoroughly address the subject of honor in as few words as possible. Although I use the medal on the poem, the concept of military honor is not so limited. In fact, the subject is included on a much broader basis, i.e. the honor of a working mother, the afflicted, the victorious. Each of those persons must answer the clarion call of honor in its varied form.

With that prologue, I submit to you the poem “Honor” and promise to bring photography to the Corner in my next submission. If you are so inclined, give me your thoughts on how the two poems can be reconciled.


Comes the call of the highest standard, piercing the night air, bearing a duty, hardened by necessity, sharpened by destiny.

Answering the call, without pause, without equivocation, comes Honor.


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