British Poets

Further Research

Further Investigation, Research, and Activities on British Poets and Writers
Edmund Blunden


Several years following the end of the First World War memoirs began to be published. Most were penned by writers who had fought in the war, others written by journalists and nurses. Three of the best memoirs were written by Edmund Blunden, Robert Graves, and Siegfried Sassoon. Excerpts are available on line and hard copies can be obtained through library services.
Blunden, Edmund. Undertones of War (London: R. Cobden-Sanderson, 1928).
Graves, Robert. Good-bye to All That: An Autobiography (London: J. Cape, 1929). New edition published by Berghahn Books, 1995 includes a biographical essay and annotations.
Sassoon, Siegfried. Memoirs of an Infantry Officer (London: Faber and Faber Limited, 1930).

The Importance of Relationships

As many of the poems in this module show, war can be a lonely and most predictably a life-changing experience. Several writers found encouragement from one another. For example, the friendship of Wilfred Owen and Siegfried Sassoon, while the two were patients at Craiglockhart was important to the literary development of the two. Both wrote for the hospital’s literary journal, The Hydra. Issues of the journal can be obtained through the website:
Stephen MacDonald’s play Not about Heroes (London and Boston: Faber and Faber, 1983) depicts the friendship between the two men.   A more recent book, Regeneration by Pat Barker (New York: Plume, 1993) centers between the doctor patient relationship between Siegfried Sassoon and his psychologist, W.H.R. Rivers.
Helen Thomas wrote a two-volume autobiography about her life with her husband, poet Edward Thomas. Thomas was killed in 1917 at the Battle of Arras. As it Was (London: W. Heinemann, 1926) and World Without End (London: Heinemann, 1931) addresses her husband’s struggle to become a poet.

Rudyard Kipling
The Death of a Son

One of England’s most famous writers, Rudyard Kipling, was convinced that the First World War would be short-lived. His belief was so strong that he urged his teenage son, John, to join the military. John was wounded in 1915 and two years later after being reported missing, was declared dead. In honor of his son Kipling wrote a history of The Irish Guards in the Great War (London: Macmillan and Company, Limited, 1923) and a short story, “The Gardner,” a moving tale about those who are left to mourn dead.  Another work, My Book Jack by David Haig (London: Nick Hern Books, 1997) tells the story of John Kipling.

British Poets

Poet's Corner, Westminister Abbey

Warrior Poets

Poetry has a way of connecting us to the core of what we feel. How often we find ourselves saying, “I don’t have the words,” but somehow a poem can reach inside us and manage to convey what we can’t say with mere words. In many ways, poetry provides a bridge to healing, an invisible structure that permits our feelings to commune with our thoughts.

On the pages in this section of the module are the renderings of poets who have been hailed as outstanding contributors to the Poetry of the Great War. They represent Britain, Canada, Germany, Italy, Russia and the United States. Several of them are featured in Voices in Wartime. While each poet is associated with writing of war, many of these individuals are regarded as writers of themes outside of the misery and emotional turmoil of the death and despair that comes with the battles and guns of war.


The British Poets

In England’s grand Westminster Abbey there exists a Poet’s Corner. It is here that some of the nation’s most famous poets: Tennyson, Dryden, Robert Browning, and John Mansfield have been buried along with writers of the caliber of Charles Dickens, Rudyard Kipling, and Thomas Hardy. It was about 20 years ago, November 11, 1985, that a slate stone was unveiled to mark the 67th anniversary of the Armistice and to commemorate Britain’s poets of the Great War. 
The memorial pays tribute to 16 men: Richard Aldington, Laurence Binyon, Edmund Blunden, Rupert Brooke, Wilfrid Gibson, Robert Graves, Julian Grenfell, Ivor Gurney, David Jones, Robert Nichols, Wilfred Owen, Herbert Read, Isaac Rosenberg, Siegfried Sassoon, Charles Sorley, and Edward Thomas. All sixteen of these poets served in uniform during The First World War. Of the sixteen, six lost their lives in the war: Brooke, Grenfell, Owen, Rosenberg, Sorley and Thomas. The only poet alive for the unveiling of the memorial was Robert Graves. He died just a few months after the dedication. The inscription on the memorial comes from the words of Wilfred Owen: "My subject is War, and the pity of War. The Poetry is in the pity."

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