A century ago, the European continent was gripped by the Great War, a solemn piece of Imperial Bloodletting which began with so much jingoistic joy, but ended in mud, pathos & pain. It also marked a time of the most wonderfully inspired poetry, & this new release by Polygon offers a selection taken from each year. In its introduction, Hew Strachan writes, ‘the relationship between the First World War & poetry is a symbiotic one. Many, especially those whose language is English, confront the war for the first time through its poets.‘
As one flows through this excellent selection, one can really feel the weight of the war on it poets – an excellent document edited by the SPL’s Lizzie Macgregor, who clearly had access to some of the more obscure poems, including a healthy selection in Gaelic. The upmost care has gone into her selection, & one gets the feeling one is reading something of a cohesive novel, rather than a body of poetry from disparate poets. Each of the 5 years of poetry (1914-18) are given an intelligent introduction by Yvonne McEwen, & the complete package is perfect – this book should grace all bookshelves, I believe, not just those of our poets & historians.
Reviewer : Damo Bullen