War and poetry- two concepts infrequently mentioned, much less allied, in the same breath. Yet during World War I a number of writers took the horrific experiences of the Western Front and turned them into some of the twentieth century's finest, most disturbing poetry. Among these "war poets", Wilfred Owen is indisputably one of the greatest.
From the opening declaration " Above all, I am not concerned with Poetry... My subject is War, and the pity of War..." through the dreamlike madness of "Strange Meeting" to the elegiac fury of "Anthem for Doomed Youth", Owen hones the poetic craft he learned as a juvenile romantic versifier into a rapier on which he skewers the futility of the war, the blind official stupidity which kept it going, and the inhumanity shown by each side to its own men as well as the enemy.
Killed in action not long before the Armistice, Owen saw little publication of his work. However, his verse- carefully arranged, meticulously researched and documented by Cecil Day Lewis- is not only his epitaph. As relevant and affecting today as in 1918, it's as fine a counter-argument as any ever written against those who dismiss poetry as flowery nonsense. And for the rest of us? Few media can express the true nature and terrible costs of the First World War as eloquently as poetry at its finest can- and Owen provides it in plenty.