By Chris Dickon
Throughout A Rendezvous With Death: Alan Seeger In Poetry, At War – the first modern biography of the famed and doomed “Great War” poet Alan Seeger – author Chris Dickon uses previously untapped papers and archives to reveal Seeger as a complex, enigmatic, and fatalistic genius confronting his art (and the war in which he found himself) with robust, romantic intensity.
As Seeger’s friend and Harvard classmate T. S. Eliot commented: “[Seeger’s solemnity was] thoroughgoing, not a mere literary formality. Alan Seeger, as one who knew him can attest, lived his whole life on this plane, with impeccable poetic dignity; everything about him was in keeping.”
Dickon shows the expatriate American Seeger as an avid soldier for France long before the time when the United States finally entered the war. In doing so, Dickon not only delivers an eloquent narrative of Seeger’s works and days, but also expertly places him in the context of both his time and ours.
In his diary, Seeger wrote: “I never took arms out of any hatred against Germany or the Germans, but purely out of love for France.” And it is in France where – to this day – he remains most revered. Meanwhile his greatest and most prophetic poem “I Have A Rendezvous With Death” is one of the best known in the world.
From Seeger’s affluent childhood in New York and Mexico, to his college days at Harvard with friend John Reed, to Bohemian Greenwich Village and ultimately to the Left Bank of Paris and his final year in the trenches of Northern France … Dickon’s masterful book tells the tale of Seeger’s short life with great depth, clarity, and sympathy.
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Chris Dickon is a writer and veteran PBS television and radio producer. His previous books include The Foreign Burial of American War Dead, The Enduring Journey of the USS Chesapeake, and Americans at War in Foreign Forces. Visit his Authors Guild web presence.
Read the review from Roads to the Great War.
The Partie a Remplir par le Corps denoting Alan Seeger’s death on July 4, 1916:
Chris Dickon speaking about Alan Seeger at The American Library in Paris, June 2017. Photo by Grant Rosenberg.