The Tragic True Story Of WWI Trench Poetry

During World War I, a genre of literature known as trench poetry became popular. Some of these poems were penned by poets-turned-soldiers, but others were written by regular soldiers who found an outlet to express their wartime experiences in a creative way. These poets by soldiers paint a realistic picture of their feelings during the war, often focusing on death, mental anguish, and pressure associated with their duties as soldiers.

Trench poetry has made such an impact that some of the poems written by soldiers are taught and analyzed in literature classes. Some of the most prominent names in trench poetry include Siegfried Sassoon, Wilfred Owen, Isaac Rosenberg, Robert Graves, and Ivor Gurney, among others (via University of North Texas). During and after World War I, there was an abundance of poems that were published by soldiers trying to come to terms with their experiences. These poems have since been published in several books throughout the years.

Trench war poets

One of the most popular trench war poets was Siegfried Sassoon, a poet and soldier who often wrote about the brutality of war and his anger toward those in authority. Sassoon was wounded on the battlefield which resulted in an open letter he wrote where he said, “I believe that this War is being deliberately prolonged by those who have the power to end it” (via Poetry Foundation). While Sassoon wrote about the realities of war, some of his critics saw his poems as too graphic or lacking patriotism. Some, however, said that his works perfectly capture his intense feelings about the war.

Wilfred Owen is another trench poet and although he only had five poems published, he remains one of the most well-known trench poets to this day. After experiencing shell shock and being hospitalized, per Penguin, he met Sassoon, who was instrumental in pushing Owen to write about his flashbacks and war experiences in poems. He returned to fight in the war but died in battle just a week before the war ended.

Not all trench poems were about the brutality of war. One of the most popular poems, “The Soldier,” romanticizes the idea of being killed in the war and dying honorably for one’s country, per Shmoop. It was authored by Rupert Brooke, a writer and poet known for his sonnets before the war broke out.

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