“A Sonnet For CNN,” by George Bradley (published in The Fire Fetched Down, 1996), was written during the first gulf war, in 1991. It is not a typical war poem, which is appropriate since it was not a typical war. Poignant imagery is used to highlight the dichotomy between the realities of the war, and the reporting of the war as it enters the home of the average US household. In the octet the harshness of the war reporting is emphasized as its horrific images are brought into sharp focus in the “mind’s eye.” This type of war experience was impossible for the average civilian in any previous war, and in that sense it offers an experience of the war, which binds the nation tightly together in unity of purpose, a purpose illuminated by the final quote from Psalms 137. We have a connection through religious roots that ties us tightly to the Middle East even though half a world away.
The sextet, on the other hand, opens by reminding us that what we saw on the screen, however gruesome, could not in fact compare with the realities of the war, we have only a broadcaster’s “monotone” to inform the images. We are missing a primary sense, that of hearing, and are not actually affected by the mustard gas and scud missiles, the things that our children, our troops, are being faced with and suffering from. But rather than be distanced from our children by the impersonal nature of the war reporting, instead, we are led to an even more emotional connection. “How not to weep?” We are, in fact, brought to a deeper understanding our loss by examining the distance between us that would not be as obvious were it not for the seeming closeness that the TV brings to us.