The Lost Poets
Bertram Andrews Robert H Beckh
The First World War is unique in the enormous amount of poetry written during and about it.
The terms "war poets" and "war poetry" are associated almost exclusively with WW1
W N Hodgson
Cyril Morton Horne
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Louis B Solomon
We have identified over 80 published war poets. Almost all of these were serving men
In addition countless thousands of ordinary 'rank and file' soldiers and sailors whose work has never been published wrote poetry to their wives, sweethearts, mothers and families
These 28 published poets* died during the war. Some of them, like Hedd Wyn, Edward Thomas and Francis Ledwidge would have gone on to literary greatness had they lived. Some, like Wilfred Owen and Rupert Brooke, achieved it in death.
*see 'Links' footnote
These are the 'Lost Poets'
What explains this incredible outpouring of poetry in just 4 bitter years?
Possibly, the early C20th saw an unprecedented number of talented poets who sadly happened to coincide with the Great War.
What is more likely is that it was the nature of war that stimulated so many to write and with such eloquence.
The thousands of ordinary men who wrote from the misery and horror of the trenches is testament both to the indomitable strength of the human spirit . That they chose poetry as the means to express their hopes and feelings is evidence of the redemptive power of poetry summed up half a century later by President J F Kennedy --
“When power leads man to arrogance, poetry reminds him of his limitations. When power narrows the areas of man’s concern, poetry reminds him of the richness and diversity of this existence. When power corrupts, poetry cleanses. For art establishes the basic human truth which must serve as the touchstone of our judgment.”