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Poetry of the First World War: an Anthology edited by Tim Kendall review

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The inclusion of less familiar poets and songs from the trenches and music halls makes this such a valuable collection

I confess to a certain glazing-over of the eyes when encountering the words "first world war poetry". Yes, the war was very bad and the poets who volunteered lost their enthusiasm for it soon enough; some of the poetry is memorable; some is best passed over. Which is why this is such a good and necessary anthology. We need to be defamiliarised to appreciate the poetry once again.

The names we learned at school are all here, of course: Wilfred Owen and Rupert Brooke (rather scantily represented) and Siegfried Sassoon, with his majors "fierce and bald and short of breath", his generals and their murderous plans of attack. There is also Edward Thomas, whose lines "No one cares less than I,/ Nobody knows but God,/ Whether I am destined to lie/ Under a foreign clod" could be said to be the antithesis of Brooke's corner of a foreign field that is forever England.

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