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View Full Version : How well-known is the poem "In Flanders Fields" in the US?



Becca C.
07-11-2012, 01:28 AM
It's hugely famous here in Canada. It was written by a Canadian, and it's a huge part of our Remembrance Day ceremonies (the first verse is even on the $10 bill), but how well-known is it stateside?

eternalised
07-11-2012, 01:31 AM
All I know is that it's famous here in Belgium, but hey, Flanders is a part of Belgium, and most of the poem happens here. So I guess that's why. :)

Sorry this is probably completely unhelpful.

WildScribe
07-11-2012, 01:33 AM
I have heard of it, and I'm pretty sure I've either heard it or read it at least once before, but I had to look it up to see what it was about because I had no idea. I'm a young, white, fairly well educated but NOT college educated woman.

Alessandra Kelley
07-11-2012, 01:35 AM
I know the first two lines. It still makes me weep every time I hear it.

But I am atypical, I suspect. I don't know if most USers are familiar with it.

amergina
07-11-2012, 01:55 AM
USer here. I'm familiar with it. But I too, may be atypical.

Ari Meermans
07-11-2012, 01:56 AM
I don't know, either, how well-known it is today. My grandfather served in WWI and I grew up hearing the first three verses (I don't know if there're more, or not.) Like Alessandra, it makes me weepy.

Trebor1415
07-11-2012, 02:08 AM
It's not nearly as well known in the U.S. as in Canada or overseas. I'm aware of it, but I'm a military history buff, and I can't tell you more than a line or two from it.

I don't remember it being taught when I was in High School, but that was 20 years ago and I may just not be remembering it.

In any event, I very much doubt it's part of U.S. "common cultural knowledge" especially for anyone under 40.

Medievalist
07-11-2012, 02:14 AM
It's hugely famous here in Canada. It was written by a Canadian, and it's a huge part of our Remembrance Day ceremonies (the first verse is even on the $10 bill), but how well-known is it stateside?

It's fairly well known; it's in a lot of high school English texts. You'll still see allusions to it in news papers, for instance.

JoNightshade
07-11-2012, 02:15 AM
From the title I was familiar with the fact that it's a poem about war and that it is famous. I looked up the first few lines and went, oh yeah, that one.

White, middle class, and college educated here. Degree in American/English lit; I suspect I encountered the poem in high school and definitely did not study it during college.

Snowstorm
07-11-2012, 02:18 AM
USAer here. I know it too. I can't guess though how many others may be aware of it. Sorry, not much help for you.

MaryMumsy
07-11-2012, 03:04 AM
I'm a USAer, and we learned it in grade school. But that was 50+ years ago. Don't know if it gets much attention now.

MM

Becca C.
07-11-2012, 03:17 AM
Very interesting, guys. Thank you. It's better known than I would've thought, then.

It makes me shiver every time I hear it. Especially at a ceremony with poppies and bagpipes. Jeez.

leahzero
07-11-2012, 03:22 AM
In any event, I very much doubt it's part of U.S. "common cultural knowledge" especially for anyone under 40.

Yeah, no experience with it here. I've heard of it on the internet, but never had it come up in public school through college from the 80s-00s.

Mclesh
07-11-2012, 03:25 AM
My son studied this in either 8th or 9th grade, I can't remember which, but very recent. It's such a beautiful, sad poem.

RichardGarfinkle
07-11-2012, 03:45 AM
It is found in schools sometimes. It also, strange as this may sound, was recited by Linus in a Peanuts special called What Have We Learned Charlie Brown?

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/What_Have_We_Learned,_Charlie_Brown%3F

lorna_w
07-11-2012, 03:47 AM
For a long while, WWI was really not focused on much here, and I'd be surprised if most in the USA knew where it was fought, how many died in it, who the combatants were, how it started, how Japan was aligned, or so on. I think movies and TV have done something to reverse this trend, though. The Young Indiana Jones spent some time in WWI, for instance. And remember, only 1/2 of Americans can find (http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2006/05/0502_060502_geography.html) India on a map (much less Belgium), know Canada's capital, or can correctly identify the state of Mississippi in their own country. So...despite the "yesses" here, I'm doubting it's all that common.

shadowwalker
07-11-2012, 04:26 AM
I think it depends on age group and locale. It should be required reading in schools. JMO

Puma
07-11-2012, 04:37 AM
It's funny - I mentioned that poem to my husband earlier today. I started school in 1950, in a small, rural school. We had our readers, but those of us who were ahead were allowed to read in prior sets of readers the school still had available in the classroom. There was a story and the poem in one of the Ellsworth-Gray readers that I think was from about 1930. I loved it when I read it then (probably about age 8) and I still love it today. Puma

ETA: And I think it's the VFW who hands out "buddy poppies" on Veteran's Day to those who give a donation - I always do.

shadowwalker
07-11-2012, 05:48 AM
ETA: And I think it's the VFW who hands out "buddy poppies" on Veteran's Day to those who give a donation - I always do.

They used to do that around here when I was young - sadly, they seem to have stopped the last few years. :(

lac582
07-11-2012, 06:36 AM
I'm going to go against the consensus and note that I'm unfamiliar with it. 30 years old, educated in public schools in the Mid-Atlantic states, for what it's worth!

Canotila
07-11-2012, 06:45 AM
My mom and I are familiar with it, but you're probably not getting an accurate sampling asking something like this on a writer's forum. The only reason I've heard of it is because my mom read me the poem (and sobbed all the way through) when I asked her why they give out those pins with poppies on memorial day. It was never once mentioned in the 13 years I went to public school or in college.

frimble3
07-11-2012, 10:07 AM
Canadian here, and I'm betting that it's not 'common knowledge' in the US because most of the responders here, who say they know of the poem, think they read it in elementary school, and haven't heard it anywhere else.
If it was culturally important, it wouldn't be left to one reading, in grade school.

Trebor1415
07-11-2012, 11:51 AM
If it was culturally important, it wouldn't be left to one reading, in grade school.

This. Exactly.

melnve
07-11-2012, 01:23 PM
Very well known in Australia FWIW. Often used as part of Remembrance Day ceremonies. I took a bunch of teenage students to Flanders Field a few years back on a school trip, and they found it incredibly moving since they had heard the poem so often.

Lil
07-11-2012, 05:45 PM
I am familiar with it, but then I belong to a generation that still read poetry. I can also remember as a child in school standing in silence at 11 am on November 11. I doubt anyone under 30 or so would know it.

The local VFW now gives out poppies on Memorial Day. The vet handing them out didn't know what they meant.

Roger J Carlson
07-11-2012, 05:50 PM
I was required to memorize it in high school (38 years ago), and I still remember the whole thing.

Shadow_Ferret
07-11-2012, 06:04 PM
I never heard of it before today.

Puma
07-11-2012, 06:31 PM
Just to add a feather to my cap - I've been working to raise money for military flagholders for the veterans in our township cemeteries that don't have them. Last year, my daughter and I put the flagholders on the WWI vet's graves on November 11 - in a light rain. Talk about moving and feeling a connection. One of our local vets is actually buried "In Flanders Field." Puma

Niiicola
07-12-2012, 12:32 AM
I must confess, I never studied it in school. Went to public school in New England, then a four-year private liberal arts college. I'm vaguely familiar with it, but it's not a reference I probably would have gotten as a child/teen (assuming you're writing YA). But it sounds like others do know of it, so maybe I'm an anomaly :Shrug:

StephanieFox
07-13-2012, 05:28 AM
If you are of an older generation in the USA, this is very, very well known. It's considered an iconic (anti) war poem. I don't know if they teach this in the public schools anymore, but anyone of the baby boom generation would recognize it.