Dead on a High Hill

Essays on War, Literature and Living, 2002–2012


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About the Book

A new collection of Bill Ehrhart’s essays—25 of them, written between 2002 and 2012 on subjects ranging from the Vietnam War failures of American policy-makers to life in 21st century Vietnam; the trenches of the Western Front, the mountains of Korea, the sands of Iraq; from the value of one’s name to the cowardice of Congress; mountain gorillas in Rwanda, the journalist Gloria Emerson, teaching poetry to teenagers; on the famous (Wilfred Owen) and the obscure (Robert James Elliott)… These essays explore the fallacies of history, the madness of war, the craft of poetry, the profession of teaching, and the art of living.

About the Author(s)

Memoirist, poet, editor, and Marine veteran, W.D. Ehrhart taught English and history at the Haverford School in Haverford, Pennsylvania. The author of twenty books, his prose and poetry have appeared in hundreds of publications including the Los Angeles Times, Cleveland Plain Dealer, Utne Reader, Reader’s Digest, American Poetry Review and the Virginia Quarterly Review. He was a major presence in the Ken Burns and Lynn Novick documentary The Vietnam War.

Bibliographic Details

W.D. Ehrhart
Format: softcover (6 x 9)
Pages: 204
Bibliographic Info: 44 photos, notes, index
Copyright Date: 2012
pISBN: 978-0-7864-7039-6
eISBN: 978-0-7864-9253-4
Imprint: McFarland

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments      ix
Preface      1

The World Is Watching      8
Batter My Heart with the Liquor Store: or, Teaching Poetry to Teenagers      16
Hell’s Music: A Neglected Poem from a Neglected War      32
The Power to Declare      40
James Magner, Jr., William Meredith and Reg Saner: Reluctant Poets of the Korean War      42
What’s the Point of Poetry?      67
Kaleidoscope      70
Carrying the Ghost of Ray Catina      73
Good Fences Make Good Neighbors: A Brief History of National Myopia      75
What the Fuss Is All About      80
“I Have to Go Now. Bye!” A Remembrance of Gloria Emerson      83
Concerning Memorial Day      87
“Knock Their Jocks Off, Boys!”      89
The Value of Your Name      93
Words for John Balaban      98
Good Wars, Bad Wars, Forgotten Wars and Poetry      106
“They Want Enough Rice”: Reflections on the Late American War in Vietnam      112
Samuel Exler: The Poet as Historian      125
One, Two, Many Vietnams?      131
The Origins of Passion      133
The Pity of War Poetry      137
“That Damned Bad”: Fragments from the Life of Robert James Elliott      139
Con Thien and Dancin’ Jack      143
Dead on a High Hill: Poetry from the Korean War      147
Ken and Bill’s Excellent Adventure      163

Military History of W. D. Ehrhart      187
About the Author      189
Index      191

Book Reviews & Awards

“this book contains many such small treasures, big ones too”—Veterans for Peace Newsletter; “As a poet and editor, Bill Ehrhart is clearly one of the major figures in Vietnam War literature”—John Newman, curator of the Vietnam War Literature Collection at Colorado State University; “one of the great poets and writers of nonfiction produced by the Vietnam War”—The Nation.