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Weekly Poem: Paul Muldoon reads ‘A Civil War Suite’

Paul Muldoon reads part five of his poem “A Civil War Suite” at the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery in Washington D.C.

A Civil War Suite

5. Sally Mann: Manassas

Less the idea of what the world might be “like”
than what it is “like photographed
has had us lug
over glacier-grooved

and–polished mountains what we once took
for luggage, bags of hominy grits,
barrels of pork and hardtack,
wall-to-wall crates

of wet-glass negatives,
the tackle by which we still hold on with grim
determination to our salt codfish,
the portable darkroom
in which we’ve yet to cure
ourselves of the idea that art is “pure” or “impure.”

Paul Muldoon’s full poem “A Civil War Suite” is published in “Lines in Long Array: A Civil War Commemoration: Poems and Photographs, Past and Present.” In recognition of the 150th anniversary of the Civil War, the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery commissioned 12 modern poets to reflect on our contemporary understanding of the war.

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