2nd January 2015
In January and Feburary 2015 the county round of Poetry By Heart will be taking place up and down the country in arts centres, libraries and museums. In forty two different venues students will be reciting not only their pre and post 1914 poems but also a poem chosen from the special Poetry By Heart First World War showcase. In another January Blog post Anne Caldwell reflects on how she made use of the showcase within a memorable First World War commemorative event in Bolton whilst below Poetry By Heart Project Assistant Tom Boughen highlights some of the new additions to the showcase
The First World War collection has been an integral part of the Poetry By Heart experience for over a year. We uploaded the first poems to the showcase in November 2013 to coincide with Remembrance Day, and were impressed by the way in which so many students brought these poems to life with emotional and powerful recitations in the County rounds.
We’re very pleased to announce that we have expanded the collection for the centenary year! The aim has always been to include a variety of voices, from the old British favourites Owen and Sassoon, to Guillaume Apollinaire (French), Edward Slonski (Polish), Stadler and Trakl (German), Seeger (American); the contemporary voices (Andrew Motion, Mick Imlah, Owen Sheers), and to also include the voices of women such as Sara Teasdale and Helen Mackay, offering witness to the horrors of war from the home front and hospital units. Taken together from so many different sources, we hoped that this collection would be a diverse showcase of poetry from different corners of the same conflict.
With these additions we hope our collection continues in this vein.
Anna Akhmatova – In Memoriam, July 19, 1914
Akhmatova’s poem is the first in our collection to shed light on the Russian experience, and concerns the declaration of war on Germany; with a real sense of impending doom.
Laurence Binyon – For The Fallen
You already know the fourth stanza; it is quoted every 11th November…
They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.
Discover the rest of Binyon’s elegant and enduring tribute.
Mary Borden – Song of The Mud
One of the greatest horrors of trench warfare is often overlooked. Borden writes about the ‘invincible, inexhaustible mud of the war zone’ in a poem that becomes distinctly more nightmarish as it goes on.
Eleanor Farjeon – Easter Monday (In Memoriam E.T.)
You may know the prolific poet Edward Thomas – he also appears in our anthology. Eleanor Farjeon, best known for her children’s stories, had a close relationship with Thomas which ended in heartbreak with his death in April 1917. This poem is affecting for its simplicity with a particularly poignant ending. Farjeon’s mourning is tangible throughout the lines.
Julian Grenfell – Into Battle
The best-known war poets – for example Sassoon and Owen – are vociferously anti-war and deeply cynical. Grenfell’s poem is one of few in our collection that is overwhelmingly in favour of the war, portraying the soldier’s struggle as one of destiny. It is curious to wonder how Grenfell’s thoughts on the war might have changed had he lived past 1915.
Rudyard Kipling – My Boy Jack
A poem about loss and regret, and barely disguised mourning for Kipling’s son Jack, killed in action early on in the war. A simple poem, but no less powerful for its simplicity
Glyn Maxwell – My Grandfather At The Pool
Contemporary poet and Poetry By Heart judge Glyn Maxwell’s poem is about the act of remembrance and his grandfather, and the effect history has on the living.
Ezra Pound – Hugh Selwyn Mauberley (Part I)
This is an extract taken from Pound’s lengthy eighteen-part poem. His language is visceral and contemptuous of the ‘botched civilisation’, ‘an old bitch gone in the teeth’ for which so many men died.
Edgell Rickword – Trench Poets
The first of two new additions by Edgell Rickword. He served as a soldier and survived the war, becoming increasingly more political in later life as a committed socialist. This poem is bleakly comic, describing a solder attempting to fend off the rats and worms from consuming the body of his dead friend (we told you it was bleak!).
Edgell Rickword – The Soldier Addresses His Body
There is a strange sense of detachment in this poem, and Rickword returns to the gallows humour present in Trench Poets. It ends with an unusual sense of self-deprecation, as he decides to ‘have a drink, and give the cards a run and leave dull verse to the dull peaceful time.’
That’s our run through the new additions! With the county contests coming up, hopefully we’ll see and hear some of them being recited at arts venues and libraries across the country.
Tom Boughen (standing second from the left with other members of the Poetry By Heart team) is a key part of the Poetry By Heart set up for the 2014-15 competition having completed a work placement with Penguin UK to help out with the Poetry By Heart book published on October 2nd. He is a University of Bristol history graduate and the PBH paid project assistant for the life of the competition.
(Main image above – ‘Poppy Field’ by Mark Shirley – Creative Commons)