Several days ago, I read Henry Reed’s “Naming of Parts” from his longer work “Lessons of War.” “Naming of Parts” is, justly, the most famous excerpt of this work, and I cannot get it out of my head.
Take a look. It’s online. Maybe you can tell me why it touches me so. What I know is that it’s a poem that creates a mood and a feeling in an organic way; it brings you into it without ever saying anything about how it wants you to feel.
A lecture, outdoors, on a spring day, about how to assemble a rifle. Imagery of the beauty of flowers and the flight of bees, interspersed with instructions about the rifle parts.
Images of color, of stillness. Images that parody what will come later. But never obvious.
The poet never, even remotely, says, “How ironic that we are assembling instruments of death in a beautiful, living garden.”
The poet never writes, “This serene garden will soon be replaced by a bloody battlefield.”
The poet never says to us, “These young men, attending to these practical lessons, will die far away from this peaceful place, and that is sad.”
If you examine the poem in detail, you can draw the metaphors and parallels from each phrase, and admire the subtlety of the word choices. But, today, I am responding to the poem as a whole.
It did what I would like to get better at doing. It made me feel something and have no idea why; it carved a niche in my brain and made itself at home.