Red, White & Verse

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A lyrical celebration of the rich and diverse history of the United States, Greg McNeilly’s Red, White & Verse: Our Myths, Legends & Stories transports readers through time to present pivotal people and moments from the country’s past. With unabashed patriotism and clearsighted love for his homeland, McNeilly’s poetry traverses historical ground as varied as the Marshall Plan and Disneyland, the War for Independence and Yellowstone National Park, introducing influential and inspiring personalities along the way. By turns poignant and entertaining, Red, White & Verse should appeal to American history lovers from across the political spectrum.

The included works are presented chronologically based on the people, places, and events featured in them, starting with a biographical poem about Pocahontas (1596–1617) and ending with a poignant ode dedicated to the tragic events of September 11, 2001. There are also three additional poems included at the end of the collection, likely sitting outside the chronological order due to the timelessness of their subject matter: the Mississippi River, Grand Canyon, and Great Lakes, respectively. In these latter works, McNeilly captures the majesty of nature, for example, “The river, America in a watery flow, / Tells the story of a nation that continues to grow. / Its water whispers tales old and new, / The Mississippi, America’s river, steadfast and true.”

Among the famous faces profiled by McNeilly are political giants such as Benjamin Franklin and George Washington, with the former being described as “In the forge of revolution, his vision held fast, / A founding father, his lot was cast” and the latter termed “a leader without peer.” There are also poems dedicated to key figures from the abolitionist and civil rights movements, including Frederick Douglas (“Indeed, a man of words, a man of deeds, / Whose eloquence the soul of the nation feeds.”), Harriet Tubman (“Assuming the mantle of Moses, a codename worn with pride, / She was a conductor on the Underground Railroad’s secret tide.”), and Malcolm X (“He instilled pride where shame once lay, / In the hearts of many, he ignited the way.”).

Moreover, from the sphere of business and industry, the likes of J.P. Morgan, Henry Ford (“whose heart was set on industry”), and John D. Rockefeller are represented, while from the fields of literature and entertainment, McNeilly profiles figures such as Mark Twain, Harper Lee, and even Hollywood itself (“In the heart of Los Angeles rests a luminous jewel, / Hollywood, where dreams are spun and stories rule”). Sports and sportspeople are not forgotten either, as McNeilly pens a tribute to America’s love of baseball, which he describes as follows: “In the lush expanse, where field and sky unite, / Where heroes are chiseled in the crucible of eternal fight, / Emerges a symphony, America’s long days of light, / A Homeric saga unfurls in the halcyon summer night.”

All these extraordinary people and more, as well as the principles they represent, are elucidated by McNeilly, thereby unveiling their influence on the growth and development of the United States and its position in the world today. His verse also explores key moments and events from history that have shaped the country, including the Gettysburg Address (“Where hope was born anew from a past so keen”) and Pearl Harbor. Furthermore, he pens tributes to important annual traditions such as Thanksgiving and Independence Day, highlighting the things that bring and bind Americans together. What’s more, he also takes time to consider the things that divide the nation. In accomplishing all this, McNeilly certainly succeeds in achieving his aim “to recapture the heroic as our myth with a nod to our imperfection.”

As each poem is preceded by a bullet-pointed list of facts and figures related to its subject matter, McNeilly’s work serves to inform as well as to entertain. There are plenty of avenues suggested for further research and exploration. The text is also interspersed with illustrations by Rupert Van Wyk depicting certain scenes from the poems, which may serve to engage younger readers in particular, who will likely especially enjoy having the poems read aloud to them. As a collection, Red, White & Verse offers an impassioned tribute to everything that has gone into the making of the United States and to everything that continues to shape the nation today, making it a great choice for poetry-loving aficionados of American history and those seeking to learn more about the country.

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Author Greg McNeilly
Star Count 4/5
Format eBook
Page Count 257 pages
Publisher Ballast Books
Publish Date 07-May-2024
ISBN 97819622020 Buy this Book
Issue April 2024
Category Poetry & Short Stories