Monday, September 15, 2014

Evaluating the poetry of the first world war.

George Summers over at the "Great War Fiction Blog":

Realism is Not Enough

The British Poetry of the First World War conference at Oxford gave me plenty to think about. One sentence from that has stuck in my mind as a theme I want to develop at some time in the future is from the presentation by Andrew Palmer.
‘Realism is not enough,’ he said.
He was talking about how we evaluate War poetry. Very often this is praised for its realistic and graphic detail. In a standard school exercise, a poem by Wilfred Owen is placed next to some patriotic tub-thumping. Students are expected to praise the Owen for its communication of the hard facts of war. When I was marking AS-level scripts many students produced essays pointing up this contrast, whatever the actual question set in the exam.
Of course, the stress on the pain and horror of the battlefield is an important element of Owen’s work. Dr Palmer’s point, though, is that this is not what makes Owen a great poet. A poem is more than its subject matter.

Read the rest of this here:

1 comment:

A.E.M. Baumann said...

Spot on that. Most of my explorations in WWI, war-oriented poetry was either in class or prompted by some class, but I have feeling I spent more time there, between the two, than most who don't decide to dedicate it. Having profs who themselves were passionate about it didn't hurt. I don't think once the conversation (in person or book) degenerated to the demands for or judgment of realism. What a small, small world of the literary one must live in when their approach to what may be one of the more lyrical, subject-oriented bodies of poetry that can be found in English is centered upon issues of realism.