Poem of the Week: We Lived Happily During the War by Ilya Kaminsky

Read the poem here.

There is much to unpack in this poem, but I am a day late and a dollar short with this post. So just a few thoughts: first, this poem makes me think of the concept that guilt is a choice. It makes me think of how a person can be happy in their own life when so much violence is occurring elsewhere. And it somehow allows its readers that possibility, of living happily during the war, both within and without the emotion of guilt.

Second, this poem’s punctuation is interesting. For one, it illustrates the effectiveness of the comma splice. A comma splice is when you separate two complete sentences with a comma, like

And when they bombed other people’s houses, we


but not enough, we opposed them but not


There’s something powerful about that run-on sentence. It’s admitting something.

And: what about the parenthetical-as-prayer:

(forgive us)

It asks for, and offers, a kind of grace in the same breath.

Now: listen to this poem again here, being read by the author.

Photo by Mourya Pranay on Unsplash

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