Poetry of the First World War: An Anthology is out now and published by Oxford University Press.

Prevailing myths surrounding First World War poetry challenged in English professor’s new anthology

Professor Tim Kendall, President of the War Poets Association, and Professor of English at the University of Exeter, has compiled a new anthology of First World War poetry published by Oxford University Press.

Along with the works of famous soldier poets including Wilfred Owen, Siegfried Sassoon and Rupert Brooke, Poetry of the First World War: An Anthology incorporates lesser known works by civilian and female poets as well as music hall and trench songs. The collection reflects Professor Kendall’s own research into Ivor Gurney and includes several of Gurney’s previously unpublished poems.

Anthologies of war poetry began to appear during the War itself. Over time, a familiar narrative tracing the trajectory from idealism, to disillusionment and bitterness has become deeply engrained in popular conceptions of this genre.

This new work aims to avoid imposing this narrative and sets out to challenge the prevailing myths surrounding First World War poetry. The selection is organised by poet rather than by date or theme and each poet is introduced with contextual information. The exact date of composition for each work is included along with explanatory annotations.

Professor Tim Kendall comments, “the notes should help to make the overly familiar strange, or at least allow it to be viewed from different perspectives: the fact that Winston Churchill (no less), as a young war reporter, was using the phrase dulce et decorum est pro patria mori ironically in his newspaper account of the Soudan campaign (1989) ought to give pause to those who believe that Owen’s famous poem does something original and revolutionary”.

To read more about Professor Kendall’s insights into First World War Poetry, visit his blog, ‘War Poets’ and read his recent article, ‘Ivor Gurney and the poetry of the First World War’, published on the Oxford University Press blog. In 2014, Tim will also present a BBC documentary, ‘Ivor Gurney: The Poet Who Loved the War’ as part of the BBC’s broadcasting to mark the centenary of the War’s outbreak.

For more information about the English department, see the discipline pages.

Date: 14 October 2013

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