WWI poems

Anne Connolly and I are reading in Edinburgh Central Library on Armistice Day, 11th November, at 6:30pm. It’s part of Edinburgh’s Festival of Libraries.

The reading is ‘A War of Words’, poetry by World War I casualties and carers. I received my copies of the poems this morning, and Anne & I will meet up on Monday to agree who reads what on the evening. The poems are moving, as you might expect, and cover a range of emotions, from high-minded zeal through pity to anger. They’re by unknowns – a V.A.D. nurse (Voluntary Aid Detachment), private soldiers identified only by their initials – anonymous witnesses to that most bloody and futile of wars.

The reading is free, and all are welcome.

Next year I’m visiting the Somme battlefields with a group of friends, one of whom is a historian of the period. In the meantime, here’s an old (1995) poem of mine from Seven Senses:

November music

fields stretch to the mist’s soft horizon
edging willows give a limp green
thumbs down to warmth

furrows have the look
of stacked seismic sections
fault-traps defined by boulder detours

there’s a smell, hard to place
but you know where it’s from
it’s the site of leaf decay

where mould takes content
leaving structure – nothing’s wasted
the litter’s alive and thriving

one generation’s passed
its chemical modules
forward to the next

and where the small furred and feathered
additions to the season’s roll-call
augment the odours with a cheesier whiff

they’re just little things
you’d overlook, kicking
corpses in the leaves

but this year as always
as the guns die
and the bugle drowns in the fog

an ancient stench
rises, recirculating

coiling hate and fear
the miasma of memoried flesh
around a silent frosted rose

Colin Will


About sunnydunny

Poet, publisher, gardener
This entry was posted in Edinburgh, poetry, poetry reading, World War I. Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to WWI poems

  1. Jim Murdoch says:

    Good poem. I might have expected a poppy at the end rather than a rose mind. Wilfred Owen was one of the first poets that I made a connection with. I enjoyed your approach here.

  2. Tommaso Gervasutti says:

    Dear Colin, this is a great poem indeed which acquires strength stanza after stanza and with the alliteration’s rhythm of “stacked seismic sections”and “furred and feathered…”.May I use your poem at school for a lesson?

  3. Colin Will says:

    Jim: Many thanks. It was a photo of a frosted rosebud that started the poem off.Davide: Thanks also. The stacked seismic sections are from my previous life as a geologist – they look like furrows. And I’d be honoured if you used the poem in school.

  4. apprentice says:

    I have a set of CDs of my grandfather’s interviews with the Imperial War Musuem, he fought in WWI and in WWII was on the Russian Convoys as a Chief Engineer.He speaks movingly about the WWI ox drawn burial details that last three days and nights, with the padres on shifts.A good poem Colin – I hope the event is well attended. Angus had a fabulous war poem today that would be good for such an this occasion

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