Sunday, August 9, 2009

War poetry (which seems a little like a contradiction)

I like to read books of poetry via DailyLit, since often with novels in my email I wind up not reading them, and so I've been reading Poems by Wilfred Owen. He was a poet in World War I, writing about the war, and he died a week before the war ended, still pretty much entirely unknown. It was not till after the war that his poetry was published. None of it is the sort of grand poetry about heroic war, it's all mud and bombs and people who have lost limbs, all the horrible bits and no gloss. I rather wish I'd read this around the time I was reading Johnny Got His Gun; it would have been nice to have a book and poetry about the same thing at the same time. It's the sort of thing though, that it doesn't matter the timing as long as you read it at some point.

Apart from the content of his poetry, I quite like Owen's style, and he made me like partial rhyme which is always a bit of an accomplishment. This is from "A Terre":

A short life and a merry one, my brick!
We used to say we'd hate to live dead old, --
Yet now . . . I'd willingly be puffy, bald,
And patriotic. Buffers catch from boys
At least the jokes hurled at them. I suppose
Little I'd ever teach a son, but hitting,
Shooting, war, hunting, all the arts of hurting.
Well, that's what I learnt, -- that, and making money.

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