We know what the most famous poem to come out of World War I was, “In Flanders Fields” by John McCrae. But what poems did the soldiers themselves read?
The answer is both surprising and not surprising. If you know British military history, the answer is not surprising. But the answer is surprising for the sheer volume of poetry that was created in and about the war. At one point, the Times of London was receiving 100 poems a day for possible publication. It seemed that everyone was writing poetry – officers and soldiers in the field, families back home, government officials, retired military people, doctors and nurses, and even well established authors like Thomas Hardy and Rudyard Kipling.
Today we associate the poetry of World War I with a relatively small number of poets, some 10 to 15, who fought and wrote poems. Many of them, like Wilfred Owen, Rupert Brooke, Edward Thomas and Isaac Rosenberg, died in the conflict. Others, like Robert Graves and Siegfried Sassoon, survived and eventually died of old age.
And while many of these poets were publishing while they were still alive, and being read in the trenches, there was one volume of poetry that was the most popular. It was A Shropshire Lad by A.E. Housman.
To continue reading, please see my post today at Tweetspeak Poetry.
Photograph of View from the Shropshire Hills via Virtual Shropshire.