wilfred owens’ war poetry

Bc4f6430-a01b-11e3-9c65-00144feab7deJason Cowley at The Financial Times:

Owen was an unashamed romantic, deeply influenced by Keats, whom he read from an early age, and Shelley. He had little interest in modernist experimentation; much of his verse has a Georgian conventionality. He may not have been a modernist but his war poems remain startlingly modern: urgent, alive with felt experience.

His short, vivid, unsparing poetic recastings of life in the trenches – the senseless slaughter, the suffering, the moments of compassion, the juxtaposition of tenderness and brutality – have helped harden our understanding of the first world war as a futile catastrophe. The many hundreds of thousands of young British men who were killed in the mud of the western front were, indeed, doomed through their participation in a conflict that even today, a century later, we continue to misinterpret and misunderstand.

The last of those who fought in the Great War are dead now but, because of Wilfred Owen and fellow war poets, because of a great novel such as All Quiet on the Western Front and the shattered landscapes of the paintings of Paul Nash, we are fortunate to have imperishable first-hand artistic representations of the horror and the pity of it all.

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