World War I poetry
March 22, 2012 11:19 AM   Subscribe

A great deal of poetry was written about the Great War, much of it by soldiers in the trenches. Two period books of World War I poetry and poets are The Muse in Arms and For remembrance, available in a variety of formats at There is also The First World War Digital Poetry Archive which mostly has things from the most well-known authors, but many of these are available as scans of the original documents. (The interface is a little iffy on the DPA; click on a person, then use the search for "any poem" to get a full listing of what's available)
posted by curious nu (9 comments total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
Always ready to push forward the Doppelganger or Dulce et Decorum Est (pro patria mori)

*love him since 1982*
posted by infini at 11:32 AM on March 22, 2012

If this is your cup of green tea, then also read Paul Fussell

The award-winning The Great War and Modern Memory (1975)[12] was a cultural and literary analysis of the impact of the Great War on the development of modern literature and modern literary conventions.[1] John Keegan said its effect was "revolutionary", in that it showed how literature could be a vehicle for expressing the experience of large groups.[1] "What Paul did was go to the literary treatments of the war by 20 or 30 participants and turn them into an encapsulation of a collective European experience."[1]
posted by Postroad at 11:53 AM on March 22, 2012 [1 favorite]

Yes! Reading and World War I! My subject area! And the First World War Digital Poetry Archive is awesome. If anyone's interested, I wrote a little bit on the subject last year ...
posted by Sonny Jim at 12:08 PM on March 22, 2012

"If this is your cup of green tea, then also read Paul Fussell: The award-winning The Great War and Modern Memory" (1975). Beat me to it, Postroad. A superb book. It introduced me to Edmund Blunden, the whole Siegfried Sassoon / William Rivers / Craiglockhart story, and just how much astonishing and deeply moving literacy came from that bleakest of sources. Fussell gave the same treatment to WWII in "Wartime", a more personal account reflecting his own service with the US Army in Europe beginning from D-Day until he was wounded fighting in Alsace.
posted by Mike D at 12:36 PM on March 22, 2012

Some of the most amazing work came from the era. Unfortunately, it is too often overshadowed by the moderns like eliot, pound etc. Many of the prose novels and autobiographies are also worth looking into.

Pale flakes with lingering stealth come feeling for our faces -
We cringe in holes, back on forgotten dreams, and stare, snow-dazed,
Deep into grassier ditches. So we drowse, sun-dozed,
Littered with blossoms trickling where the blackbird fusses.
Is it that we are dying?

posted by Shit Parade at 5:01 PM on March 22, 2012

We were big fans of Wilfred Owen in poetry class in High School.

I would love to see Owen Wilson portray him in a movie...

(There was a movie about Owen and Sassoon made in 1997, I haven't seen it.)
posted by ovvl at 6:43 PM on March 22, 2012

Read David Jones' _In Parenthesis_. The most brilliant of the WWI poems or large projects. Jones, a Welshman, tried to put WWI into context of the pre-modern imagination. The result is lovely, and horrible, and true. Read it, please, so I'll have folks to discuss it with.
posted by LucretiusJones at 9:00 PM on March 22, 2012

I wouldn't be a very good Canadian if I didn't take the opportunity to post In Flanders Feilds, by John McCrae:
In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie,
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.
posted by Canageek at 9:39 PM on March 22, 2012

While we're recommending books about Great War poets, allow me to recommend Harry Ricketts's Strange Meetings--a book that deserves to be much better known than it is. Each chapter takes a pair of WWI poets and examines the--sometimes fleeting, sometimes profound--intersections of their lives before, during and/or after the war. It's beautifully written and often yields surprising insights into the poets' lives.
posted by yoink at 10:16 AM on March 23, 2012

« Older talking for the sake of talking.   |   /dev/sigh, Where Developers Sigh Newer »

This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments