Voices in Wartime

Curriculum tools and resources from the Voices in Wartime Education Project.
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Healing the Wounds of War, Creating a Less Violent World

The Voices in Wartime Education Project seeks to enable students in thousands of high schools and colleges to engage deeply with the subject of war, its causes and consequences, its multiple tragedies and devastating trauma, by hearing, telling, and re-telling the personal stories of witnesses to war; and then engages students in imagining and creating a less violent world.

The YES! Education Program and Voices in Wartime Education Project are partnering to develop curriculum resources and expand our outreach to teaching and learning about the impact of war and the value of peace. YES! and Voices share a commitment to education that supports peace, dialogue, and a just world that works for all.

See below for our selected resources and links on Voices in Wartime:


Watch 12-minute trailer of Voices in Wartime documentary.

Voices in Wartime is a feature-length documentary that sharply etches the experience of war through powerful images and the words of poets—unknown and world-famous. Soldiers, journalists, historians and experts on combat interviewed in Voices in Wartime add diverse perspectives on war's effects on soldiers, civilians and society. In Voices in Wartime, poets around the world, from the United States and Colombia to Britain and Nigeria to Iraq and India, share their views and experiences of war that extend beyond national borders and into the depth of the human soul.

Trailer courtesy of Voices in Wartime. Documentary order information.


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image of curriculum materials for Voices in Wartime

Voices in Wartime Education Project Curricula

Overview of the Education Project
:: Poetry in Wartime

Modular approach
The intent of the modules in the Voices in Wartime Education Project is not to offer a complete background to a war or conflict, but rather to begin to look at the experience of war through poetry and other writings—through the words of the unknown and world famous.

Each of the modules is thematic, self-contained as small booklets for direct use by teachers and students, and run between 50-150 pages. However, the first module, Discussion and Action Guide, is written specifically for the instructor's use.

Comprehensive annotated bibliographies, including print, internet and film are included in each module and questions for reflection, directives for research and further investigation of themes, and individual and group activities enrich each of the modules.

The Modules

  • Discussion and Action Guide provides information on preparing for viewing the film Voices in Wartime, exploring the topics presented in the film, offers approaches for facilitating discussion of the documentary, and provides in-depth study questions for individual and group learning.

  • Poetry in Wartime offers a complete rendition of poetry from the documentary and explores the role of a poet as a social commentator. Questions for reflection, suggestions for research and activities on each of the poets. In addition, there are excerpts by several of the poets talking about the nature of poetry, the role of a poet in a time of war, the importance of writing as a tool to deal with emotional, as well as physical healing.

  • The Great War includes background history on the First World War, original documentation, the reasons for the world going into war between1914-1919, poetry from 26 countries involved in the War, research projects, discussion questions, experiential learning projects.

  • US Wars in Asia is a complete guide to studying US wars in Korea and Vietnam, including historical perspectives, a framework for class discussion of the course of these wars and their relevance to the contemporary history of the war in Iraq, and a view of war through the lenses of poets on both sides of these conflicts. Experiential learning projects, research projects, and the most extensive bibliography of the media and materials ever published on Vietnam.


Photo strip of Poets featured in the Voices of Wartime project

Poetry from Voices in Wartime

LISTEN :: Poetry from the film: Voices in Wartime

Here are two examples of the Poetry Curricula from Voices in Wartime:

Disk of Enheduanna found at Ur
Disk of Enheduanna found at Ur

Enheduanna, Sumerian Priestess

Enheduanna was an ancient Sumerian priestess, from a part of the world now known as Iraq. Her father, Sargon, is credited with uniting the Central and Southern regions of Mesopotamia into a highly prosperous empire. Sargon is often referred to as the world's first emperor, reigning from 2334-2279 BCE. Enheduanna was appointed priestess of the temple at Ur. In this position she consolidated the worship of a myriad of local goddesses into the worship of Inanna, a Sumerian goddess. Enheduanna is believed to be the world's oldest writer. She wrote what may be the first recorded poem in response to war, in approximately 2300 BCE.

“Lament to the Spirit of War”

You hack everything down in battle....
God of War, with your fierce wings
you slice away the land and charge
disguised as a raging storm,
growl as a roaring hurricane,
yell like a tempest yells,
thunder, rage, roar, and drum,
expel evil winds!
Your feet are filled with anxiety!

On your lyre of moans
I hear your loud dirge scream.
Like a fiery monster you fill the land with poison.
As thunder you growl over the earth,
trees and bushes collapse before you.

You are blood rushing down a mountain,
Spirit of hate, greed and anger,
dominator of heaven and earth!
Your fire wafts over our land,
riding on a beast,
with indomitable commands,
you decide all fate.
You triumph over all our rites.
Who can explain why you go on so?


Further Research and Questions for Reflection:
Enheduanna and “Lament to the Spirit of War”

The questions and directives that follow should help guide your research of Enheduanna, her position as priestess, the political situation of her father, and her work as a writer.

  1. What was the political advantage for Sargon of appointing his daughter, Enheduanna, as priestess of the temple of Nanna in Ur.

  2. Part of Enheduanna's writings includes the composition of 42 hymns and three longer hymns to the Sumerian goddess Inanna. Who is Inanna and what significant role did she play in Sumerian society? How is she ranked next to other gods and goddesses?

  3. Enheduanna's known works are all translated into English. Select one of the hymns and reflect on its composition and meaning.

  4. Report on the reign of Sargon and his successors.

  5. Research the Temple of Ur and report on its present status.

  6. Enheduanna wrote in cuneiform script. Report on the characteristics of the script, the way in which it was written, and locate examples of the script to illustrate your report.

The questions that follow refer to the poem, Lament to the Spirit of War.

  1. 1. Explain the meaning of the words tempest, lyre, dirge, wafts, indomitable, and rites as used in the context of the poem.

  2. In what spirit is this poem written? What does the title of the poem say to us about Enheduanna's feeling about war and destruction?

  3. Is there indication in the poem as to the cause of destruction brought against humanity by the God of War? If so, what is it?

  4. What are the ways in which the God of War brings about destruction?

  5. What was Enheduanna hoping to learn by asking the last question in the poem?


Wilfred Owen

Wilfred Owen

Owen is regarded as England's greatest war poet. He was influenced by John Keats and is associated with Georgian poetry, a school of writing to which Rupert Brooke, Siegfried Sassoon, and Robert Graves, among others belonged. At the start of the war, Owen was working in France as a tutor, upon hearing of the war returned to England to enlist. He was commissioned as an officer in 1916. After serving on the Western Front for six months he was returned to England in June of 1917, and placed at Craiglockhart Hospital suffering from Shell shock. It was there that he met Siegfried Sassoon, considered to be one of the finest poets of the Great War, and they quickly became friends. It is clear that they influenced each other's work, sharing time editing the writing of the other. Sassoon also introduced Owen to his connections in the publishing world. While at Craiglockhart, Owen wrote a number of exceptional poems, among them “Anthem for Doomed Youth.”

Owen returned to active military service in September 1918 with a new sense of himself as a writer and as a soldier. In October of that same year he won the Military Cross for bravery, but sadly on November 4, 1918, he was killed while leading his men into battle. The Armistice came just seven days later. Owen is featured in the film, Voices in Wartime.

“Fragment: A Farewell”

I saw his round mouth's crimson deepen as it fell,
Like a Sun, in his last deep hour;
Watched the magnificent recession of farewell,
Clouding, half gleam, half glower,
And a last splendour burn the heavens of his cheek.
And in his eyes
The cold stars lighting, very old and bleak,
In different skies.

Questions for Reflection: “Fragment: A Farewell”

  1. How do you imagine it would be like to see someone die? What would you see? What would you feel? How would you describe what you experienced to another person?

  2. What imagery in the poem strikes you as being appropriately descriptive of the moments of death?

  3. What is meant by the title of the poem, “Fragment: A Farewell?”

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