Book Review: “The Penguin Book of First World War Poetry”

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Note: I read the second edition, published in 1981. From what I understand, Penguin now sells George Walter’s In Flanders Fields repackaged as the new Penguin Book of First World War Poetry. Check which edition you’re getting if you decide to buy a copy!

Now, before you all grab your pitchforks and come after me for giving anything less than five stars to a book that has work by Wilfred Owen in it, let me explain: I did not deduct points for the poetry itself. Where this collection fails, quite spectacularly, is editing. Jon Silkin was undoubtedly a very intelligent man who knew a lot this particular period, but I have issues with many of his decisions.

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Reading List: World War One – Poetry

Drawing by Siegfried Sassoon.

Drawing by Siegfried Sassoon.

Inspired by this year’s centenary events and wave of media attention, I have spent the last few months diving into works from the Great War and encountered some true gems along the way. It is a fascinating era where artists struggle to put unspeakable horrors into words and try to find meaning in the chaos. For everyone who wants to get into WWI literature, I have put together three reading lists with suggestions, ranging from the big names of the period to lesser known publications that I think deserve more attention. The first post in the series deals with poetry (see: non-fiction and fiction), both from the era itself and by contemporary authors looking back.

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