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West Point Professor Seeks Paths to a ‘Soldier’s Heart’

At the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, Professor Elizabeth Samet's upper level poetry seminar unearths the creative side of soldiers-in-training. Jeffrey Brown looks at Samet's use of poetry and her new book entitled "Soldier's Heart: Reading Literature Through Peace and War at West Point."

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  • JIM LEHRER:

    And finally tonight, a story of soldiers and sonnets at West Point. Jeffrey Brown has the latest in our ongoing poetry series.

  • JEFFREY BROWN:

    At the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, classes begin with a salute.

    ELIZABETH SAMET, Author, "Soldier's Heart": I know Mr. Cooke [ph] and Ms. Lizari [ph] did the Rich and Dunne connection [ph].

  • JEFFREY BROWN:

    But apart from that and the uniforms, Professor Elizabeth Samet's upper-level poetry seminar would fit in at any university filled with very bright young men and women.

  • ELIZABETH SAMET:

    And I think Stevens is really getting at similar themes…

  • JEFFREY BROWN:

    The discussion ranged widely, from Wallace Stevens' poem "The Snow Man"…

  • ELIZABETH SAMET:

    To put "nothing that is not there" into the mix, he's not talking directly about the nature scene.

  • JEFFREY BROWN:

    … to the eighth-century Chinese poet Du Fu.

  • ELIZABETH SAMET:

    … 98 in the Chinese poetry.

  • WEST POINT CADET:

    Snow scurries in the coiling wind. The wine glass is spilled. The bottle is empty. The fire has gone out on the stove.

  • JEFFREY BROWN:

    Cadets were unafraid to question the professor's thesis.

  • WEST POINT CADET:

    I'm just having a hard time understanding any notion of poetry devoid of any emotion. It doesn't strike me as, I mean, maybe there's a spectrum, where, I mean, certainly some poetry is more divested than others, but could you elaborate on that?

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