5 WWI Poems It’s Your Duty to Read

Happy National Poetry Day!



It’s that time of year again - the wind’s bite is getting a little more icy, the leaves are yellowing and the nights are drawing in. So it’s the perfect time of year to curl up in front of an open fire with some fab poetry!


This year’s National Poetry day theme is ‘Remember’, which is particularly apt, because 2014 marks the centenary of the First World War. In honour of the poets who experienced the conflict first-hand, and whose work redefined our understanding of the nature of war, we take a look back at five WWI poems that demand to be read.


  1. Dulce et Decorum est - Wilfred Owen


One of the most memorable war poems, ‘Dulce et Decorum est’ conjures up the brutal reality of life on the front line in vivid and uncompromising detail. Although Owen was tragically killed in combat, he lives on in this incredibly moving work which undermines the idea of war as noble or just.


  1. The Death-Bed - Siegfried Sassoon


A mentor to Owen, Sassoon’s poetry also revolves around the horrors of the trenches. In ‘The Death-Bed’, a soldier is caught between life and death; oscillating between the chaos of the battleground and oblivion, in a poem that laments the waste of young life.


  1. Non-Combatants - Evelyn Underhill


The female poets of WWI are too often neglected, yet their work is vital to our understanding of the war. ‘Non-Combatants’ reveals how women contributed towards the war effort, as well as conveying their agonising loneliness, waiting for their fathers, sons, or lovers to return home.


  1. An Irish Airman Foresees His Death - William Butler Yeats


Told from the perspective of an Irish pilot, who knows that he’ll die in the clouds, Yeats’ poem stands somewhat in contrast to the rest of this list, with the narrator describing an enigmatic ‘impulse of delight’ at the prospect of his own fate. However, he also emphasises the futility of the war and his alienation from any sense of national identity worth fighting for.


  1. Back - Wilfred Wilson Gibson


WWI left thousands of surviving soldiers haunted by the horrors of war, and often consumed by guilt over their own conduct during battle. ‘Back’ explores this from the perspective of a homecoming veteran, to heartbreaking effect.


What poem do you find the most moving? Let us know in the comments, and don’t forget to tweet us to let us know your fave poem using the hashtag #thinkofapoem.

You can also find all the awesome National Poetry Day events taking place here.


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