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Originally published at https://www.msstate.edu/newsroom/article/2017/11/poem-poppy-professor-get-msu-spotlight-final-wwi-tribute/ by Sammy McDavid

STARKVILLE, Miss—Haunting verse, a hardy flower and memories of a dedicated Georgia educator come together Nov. 16 when Mississippi State University concludes its observance of the centennial of America’s entry into World War I.

Titled “Poetry and the Poppy: ‘In Flanders Fields’ and One Woman’s Role in Creating a Symbol of Remembrance,” the free public event begins at 7 p.m. in the John Grisham Room of Mitchell Memorial Library. A casual reception with refreshments will follow.

The evening begins with a reading by Robert West, MSU associate professor of English, from the rondeau by Lt. Col. John McCrae, a Canadian physician whose verses center around the small, brilliantly colored flowers he saw growing on the graves of fallen soldiers. Born in 1872, the Ontario native died of pneumonia near war’s end. A rondeau is a 13-line ode divided into three stanzas of five, three and five lines, with only two rhymes throughout and with opening words of the first line used as a refrain at the end of the second and third stanzas.

Taylor Paine, floral designer and manager for University Florist, will lead discussion about the poppy, the herbaceous plant that seemed to flourish on barren grounds of trench-scarred former battlefields. She also will reflect on Moina Belle Michael (1869-1944), the University of Georgia professor and humanitarian who conceived use of the poppy to symbolize the conflict’s service and sacrifice.

Taking place July 1914-November 1918, what once was The Great War—as well as highly optimistic War to End All Wars—involved some 70 million military personnel. More than 9 million perished in combat, a number almost equaled by 7 million associated civilian deaths.

“Poetry and the Poppy” is part of World War I and America, a two-year national initiative of the Library of America, presented in partnership with The Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History, the National World War I Museum and Memorial and other organizations, with generous support from The National Endowment for the Humanities.

For more on the program, contact Sarah McCullough, MSU Libraries’ cultural heritage project coordinator, at 662-325-2506 or smccullough@library.msstate.edu.

McCrae’s famous work can be read at http://www.greatwar.co.uk/poems/john-mccrae-in-flanders-fields.html.

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