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World War One - Poetry

Tommy's Alphabet (The B.E.F. Times, 1917)

The front-line Tommy of the First World War, like Fritz, Jock, Sammy and Les Poilu, had a good deal of time on his hands between terrors. Some wrote letters, some made trench art, some slept - and the ones we're concentrating on were the ones who made this handy alphabetic guide that explained their world:

"Z is for ZERO, the time we go over,
Most of us wish we were way back
in Dover
Making munitions and living in clover
And far, far away from the trenches"


A W.W. I Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder Poem (The English Review, 1920)

There can be no doubt that as a term "Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder" is clearly lacking the needed musical quality that would add to the pleasing rhythm of a poem, however the melancholy that is generated by the malady has launched a million poems throughout the course of the last century, which was to date, the bloodiest yet. Most often remembered for her anti-war verses, Lady Margaret Sackville (1881 1963) penned this diddly about that legion of crushed and broken men returned to their wives after World War One and how entirely unrecognizable they seemed:

"You cannot speak to us nor we reply:

You learnt a different language where men die..."

W.W. II: Where were the war poets?


Poets in Their Glory: Dead (Literary Digest, 1917)

This 1917 article listed the known body count of dead poets who were rotting away in no-man's land. A number of the scribes are unknown in our era; among the prominent names are Alan Seeger, Julian Grenfel and Rupert Brooke.

Printed in a popular U.S. magazine, it appeared on the newsstands the same week that Wilfred Owen, the most well known of World War I poets, was discharged from Craiglockhart Hospital, where he first resolved to write poetry about his experiences in the war.


War Poet Charles Hamilton Sorely Reviewed
(Times Literary Supplement, 1916)

THE TIMES LITERARY SUPPLEMENT reviewed the third edition to Charles Hamilton Sorely's (1895 - 1915) collection, Marlborough and Other Poems, with particular attention paid to an addition to that volume called "Illustrations in Prose".

Sorely reminisced about his days before the war when he was briefly enrolled as a student at the University of Jena. During the war Sorely served in the Suffolk Regiment and was killed in the battle of Loos during the autumn of 1915.


''Some Aspects of War Poetry by Siegfried Sassoon (Vanity Fair Magazine, 1920)

The following five page article was written by the World War One poet Siegfried Sassoon (1886 - 1967), in an "attempt to give a rough outline of what the British poets did in the Great War, making every allowance for the fact that they were writing under great difficulty...".


Siegfried Sassoon Reviewed (Touchstone Magazine, 1920)

American poet Marguerite Wilkinson(1883 1928) was very impressed with the World War I poetry of Sigfried Sassoon, MC (1886 1967); in this three page review she lucidly explained why Sassoon's voice was different from all the other wartime versifiers and illustrated her point by quoting liberally from his two earlier volumes, "The Old Huntsman" (1917) and "Counter Attack" (1918):

"Such wisdom is the shining power of Sigfried Sassoon. To read it is to come face to face with indelible memories of unspeakable anguish. No palliatives are offered. The truth about warfare is told, as Mr. Sassoon understands it, with vigor and in sight...It is told by a man, a soldier, who will never forget this Calvary of the youth of our generation."


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