Every stanza in Schoonmaker’s 1918 poem Where Were You? ends with a question, challenging the poem’s readers to ask themselves whether they were truly and fully doing their part to help America’s effort as World War I raged.
The poet, Edwin Davies Schoonmaker, would live until 1940 and write many plays and books including The Americans, The World Storm and Beyond, and Democracy and World Dominion. But his fame didn’t last — in 2018, he still doesn’t have a Wikipedia entry.
Every week in the modern era, NYT Sunday Magazine features a poem — but it would never ever be featured as the lead piece of content in that week’s magazine. One week in June 1918, a poem was. As I discussed in my recent column for the Daily Beast, poetry was far more front and center in America’s literary culture back then. (Plus the 1918 poem entirely rhymed, something much more infrequent in the featured poems of 2018.)
Where Were You?: [Poem] By Edwin Davies Schoonmaker
Published: Sunday, June 30, 1918