Wilfred Owen's 1917 poem "Dulce Et Decorum Est," describing British soldiers choking and dying from mustard gas, is still remembered today as one of the most horrifying images of World War I.
And Yusef Komunyakaa's Pulitzer Prize-winning poems about fighting in the Vietnam War remain among the most realistic and vivid descriptions of that bloody 18-year conflict.
The point, said Herndon poet Mike Maggio, is that poetry and art survive long after the wars they describe are confined to history books.
"Poetry acts as a historical record for the future," Maggio said. "It lasts. It preserves the culture and perspectives of the people."
The perspective Maggio and a group of poets from around the region want to preserve is the conviction that the Iraq War should never have been started.
Two of Maggio's poems are included in a new anthology collecting anti-war poems written by members of D.C. Poets Against the War. The book will be released this Saturday at 2 p.m. at a reading in Reston's Used Book Shop at Lake Anne Village Center.
"We are first of all citizens that have a voice, like anyone else," Maggio said. "But maybe we, as poets, can articulate our voice in a clearer way or maybe give someone a new way of looking at what's happening in Iraq."
DC POETS AGAINST THE WAR was founded in January 2003 to protest the looming U.S.-led war against Iraq.
The group, with members from Northern Virginia, Washington, D.C., and Maryland, is a local chapter of the national organization Poets Against the War, which was organized after First Lady Laura Bush canceled a White House poetry reading because it was going to include anti-war poems.
"In order to work for a better world, we first have to imagine it," said poet Sarah Browning, the group's founder. "That's what artists are supposed to do — give us hope."
Poets are supposed to be witnesses, Browning said, and the new anthology gives accounts and thoughts on wounded soldiers recovering at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Bethesda, the influence of military contractors such as Halliburton, and the overarching feeling of dread that comes from living near a city that may again by struck by terrorists.
The poets with works in the anthology range from 11-year-old elementary students to an 85-year-old veteran poet. They are, Browning said, poets of all ages, races, ethnicities, sexual orientations and income levels.
"We all feel deeply compelled to write about the war and ask 'What would a world without war be like?'" Browning said.
BUD BURWELL, who owns and manages Reston's Used Book Shop with his wife, Susan, said the bookstore has always supported local writers since it opened in 1978.
"This seemed like a natural fit for us," he said. "The fact that it's kind of out there and kind of edgy, well, we kind of like that."
Anyone attending Saturday's free reading should expect to leave with new thoughts about the Iraq War, said poet Carmen Lupton, who lives in Great Falls and contributed a poem to the anthology called "I Fell Asleep Facing the Sea."
"When somebody comes to our readings, we hope they get all of the perspectives of what war does to us spiritually, physically and psychologically," Lupton said.
Maggio, who works at Nextel in addition to writing poetry, said he hopes the reading will be both entertaining and enlightening.
"I hope it'll give people a new perspective on things and maybe help clarify people's feelings about the war," he said.