Daneen Wardrop

Winner of the Robert H. Winner Memorial Award in 2006

from Cyclorama


Cyclorama of the Battle of Gettysburg, Southwest Panel, Paul Philippoteaux, 1883
"When one reaches the platform from which the cyclorama is shown . . . he suddenly finds himself upon a high hill, with a stretch of forty miles of country all around him and everywhere within range of his vision, on the hills, in the valleys, in the woods, on the open fields, in ditches and behind stone walls, and in shot-shattered shanties he beholds the soldiers of the blue and gray engaged in the awful struggle . . ."—The Sunday Herald, Dec. 21, 1884

When we hold each other we might know where we're going.
My brother Robert Bird with his bandaged arm, me with wrapped
     thigh
leaning on him, leaning too on the crutch
that is a sword, smoke crowning us.
Blood doesn't run
under these tons of paint
but thumbs us under its weight,
and we stay in the panel. Better than some
panels lost in attics, moldy with blue,
or panels the Shoshone cut up to sew into tents—
they can see a battle again every day
as they bead capes and scrape elk hides—
horses ride behind their sleep.
My brother Robert and I, lucky,
alive, to lean on each other. Mustered the same day.
But none of the rest of our buddies are here—behind us
everyone still fights, but we're already bandaged. Pickett's on a
     horse
he never rode, in a charge I never saw, a battle I never fought.
The horse corpses we shuffle past, the partial orbs of wagon 
     wheels.
We look and see the attack in the circle and around us
the circle looks and the attack is long and we
go round again.
                              On a platform in the middle a girl stands,
lips slack and eyes intent. Not
to cry. To try to take it in
and still be herself,
which of course she can't.
To the side of her, two returning soldiers weep,
and a mother tends the railing for balance.
Emerging from the oil, in front,
a blasted tree, part of a broken fence, clods of earth.
They know they could walk in and not bleed,
like us. They know that paint sways in the panels.
Know a million cries stitch us here.
They work hard not to betray us.
No matter where you look
the eye cannot but be filled with this.
 
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Jean Valentine on Daneen Wardrop

Daneen Wardrop's Cyclorama is a sequence of poems about our Civil War, a long poem I could not take my eyes off.

Wardrop writes in an odd, moving, unique voice—that is, it is her own voice in the voices of black and white women, slave and free, the voices of soldiers, nurses and spies, in the voice of a child, in the voices of men soldiers, and of soldiers long ago painted in the Cyclorama. She draws from memoirs of the time as well as newspapers, Currier & Ives prints, the Cyclorama itself, and other sources who were witnesses of our family war.

This poet has made a work of suffering and beauty, which in its craft and in its huge heart does justice to Robert H. Winner and his Memorial Award.

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