Top positive review
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An impressive anthology.
on 2 September 2014
There is no shortage of anthologies of WW1 poetry; “Up the Line to Death” and “Men who March Away” are just two that deserve note. Why then another? Well, George Walter’s edited Penguin Classics anthology has a number of distinctive qualities, not least a most thoughtful and accessible introduction. Its range of reference to not only the poets themselves, to other writers and to critics such as Stead and historians such as A. J. P. Taylor, is genuinely illuminating and offers within a short space some fresh perspectives on well-trodden ground. Mr Walter combines scholarship with a lucid, available style that offers much to established and new readers.
What most marks out this splendid anthology is the selection of poems. The major poets are well-represented and Walter is not afraid to include the familiar, including Brooke’s “The Soldier” an extraordinarily beautiful poem for all that has been said of it. Rosenberg, Hardy, Sassoon, Owen et al all have their rightful places. I suppose it is where Walter moves away from the well known that gives the anthology its more distinctive feel. The surprises are not just names unrecognised; Pound is not the first name one would expect to find here and Vera Brittain is generally better known for her diaries than her poems. Many are in the vernacular of the time and this together with the thoughtful arrangement of the poems gives the anthology a freshness and immediacy, not that easy to achieve on this subject.The notes are clear, helpful and of equal use to student and “lay” reader.
The few words above do much less than justice to this admirable achievement, but please don’t pass it by; the words, so many concerning death, leap from the pages with vibrant life.