War Poetry

The First World War inspired many to create art, war itself being too large a subject to comprehend in isolation. One of these art forms was poetry.

One of the surprising aspects of the Luton WW1 Project was simply finding original and unpublished poetry contained within notebooks and letters. This page aims to share a number of war poems (including two fantastic volumes of Tom's books of war poetry).

On Cissarat Kalifa Poem from 1917

In England

A substantial number of important English poets  were soldiers, writing about their experiences of war. A number of them died on the battlefield, most famously Edward ThomasIsaac RosenbergWilfred Owen, and Charles Sorley. Others includingRobert GravesIvor Gurney and Siegfried Sassoon survived but were scarred by their experiences, and this was reflected in their poetry. Robert H. Ross characterised the English "war poets" as a subgroup of the Georgian Poetry writers.

Many poems by British war poets were published in newspapers and then collected into anthologies. Several of these early anthologies were published during the war and were very popular, though the tone of the poetry changed as the war progressed. One of the wartime anthologies was The Muse in Arms, published in 1917. Several anthologies were also published in the years after the war had ended.

In November 1985, a slate memorial was unveiled in Poet's Corner commemorating poets of the Great War: Richard Aldington, Laurence BinyonEdmund Blunden, Rupert BrookeWilfrid GibsonRobert GravesJulian Grenfell, Ivor GurneyDavid JonesRobert NicholsWilfred OwenHerbert ReadIsaac RosenbergSiegfried SassoonCharles Sorley and Edward Thomas.

In other countries, war poetry was equally popular.

Canadian war poets of this period included John McCrae, who wrote In Flanders Fields, and Robert W. Service who worked as an ambulance driver for the Canadian Red Cross and was a war correspondent for the Canadian government.

Russia also produced a number of significant war poets including Nikolay Gumilyov (whose war poems were assembled in the collection The Quiver (1916), Alexander BlokIlya Ehrenburg (who published war poems in his book "On the Eve"), and

Some of the poetry will be spoken by Project Volunteers.