Sunday 10 November 2019

Nerd Church - Why I Love WW1 Poetry

Morbid li'l goth-emo child that I am, I LOVE World War One poetry.

I read it all year round: Siegfried Sassoon, Wilfred Owen, Isaac Rosenburg, Ivor Gurney, Edmund Blunden, Rupert Brooke...

*sighs happily*

'Why I Love WW1 Poetry' with poppies

So, seeing as how it's Rememberance Sunday, and it's the 11th of November tomorrow, I figured I'd let you in on the beautiful jewel of life that is WW1 poetry.

(Note: when I use the phrase 'WW1 poetry' I mean English-language WW1 poetry, mainly from British soldiers, with the odd Commonwealth soldier chucked in for good luck.

I'm sure that other nationalities also wrote poetry in a variety of languages and styles, but the WW1 poetry I and most people in the UK are familiar with is that I've just described.)

So, why do I l-o-v-e LOVE WW1 poetry?

If you've read Dora Reads before, dearest nerdlets, you'll know that I can't have just one reason for anything!

So here's a bunch of reasons instead:


Although poetic technique is hardly the only reason to read poetry, most WW1 poetry is incredibly well-written.

It creates layers upon layers of imagery, meaning, and rhyme, and weaves them together to create something poignant and beautiful.

A lot of war poetry is also in sonnet form.

And there's something beautifully subversive about that - if you didn't know, sonnets are traditionally love poems.

(...although they can technically be about anything, and the volta (the mood change at the end) does tend to take a gothic turn!)

Truth to power

Although the phrase 'speaking truth to power' wasn't, y'know, a thing in the 1910s, that's exactly what the war poets did.

See, the British establishment at the time was all battle-hungry and 'glory of the Empire' and all that sh**. Mainly because the people forming the policies and battle plans weren't the ones in the firing-line.

...Sadly, this always seems to be the case.

But the WW1 poets? They didn't tow the line.

They spoke out. They spoke truth through their poetry.

'“Good-morning, good-morning!” the General said 
When we met him last week on our way to the line. 

Now the soldiers he smiled at are most of 'em dead, 

And we're cursing his staff for incompetent swine...'

- The General, Siegfried Sassoon

'What passing-bells for these who die as cattle?

— Only the monstrous anger of the guns...'

- Anthem For Doomed Youth, Wilfred Owen

Strong imagery

You want poetry with emotional goddamn punch?! Look no further, my friend, look no further.

World War One poetry will give an emotional gut-shot and have you begging for more.

Take this from one of my favourites, Break of Day in the Trenches by Isaac Rosenberg:

'...Poppies whose roots are in man’s veins
Drop, and are ever dropping;
But mine in my ear is safe—
Just a little white with the dust.'

- Break of Day in the Trenches by Isaac Rosenberg

'Poppies whose roots are in man's veins...' - wow.

(In case you don't know the symbolism of poppies and the First World War, check out this link)

Be careful though, dearest nerdlets: these soldiers were seeing some SERIOUSLY messed-up stuff, and, understandably, writing about it.

So that means that a lot of WW1 poetry has details of corpses, injuries, blood, and dying. 

This imagery is truth... but it's a brutal truth. So be careful.


A short point, but an important one: diverse people have always been here - and always fought for countries that didn't always support them in return.

Many of the WW1 poets were Queer, some, such as Isaac Rosenberg, were also Jewish.

Even in the middle of hell, there is poetry

My last, and perhaps most important point: even in the depths of despair, there is beauty and hope.

Even in hell, there is poetry.

Are you a WW1 poetry fan?
Do you agree/disagree with any of my points?
Talk to me! ❤💬

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Last updated: 2nd Jan 2020


  1. The only WW1 poetry I have read is “In Flander’s Fields,” the infamous Canadian poem that we usually recite at Remembrance Day ceremonies. These do sound like amazing poems! I’ll have to check more out :)

    1. There's nothing wrong with In Flanders Fields, but it def. tows the establishment line more than pretty much *any* of the other WW1 poetry - which is probably why the establishment uses it! You should def. check them out!

  2. What a lovely piece! Perfect for this time of year and all about Remembrance Sunday! Thank you for sharing x

  3. I remember when we studied WW1 poetry in class in school. I haven't gone back and read any in a long while, but I think I should. I do remember the vividly strong images and how powerful and emotionally charged those poems were...

    Olivia-S @ Olivia's Catastrophe

    1. They're amazing!!!! *gets fangirly over poetry from 100 years ago!* <3


Comments? I love comments! Talk to me nerdlets!