Tag Archives: Wilfred Owen

Poetry sucks! …but you learn about people’s lives

27 May


There should really be an apostrophe in there.

This term I have been teaching poetry to some not very enthused 12-13 year olds and I’ve been polling their honest opinions about my second favourite topic to teach: poetry! What is my first you ask? Creative writing definitely and sometimes it is Shakespeare (check out the poem I wrote on The Tempest). So here is the second instalment of my new series on why poetry sucks and/or doesn’t suck.

So, does poetry suck? One student wrote that you learn about people’s lives! Ah-ha!

Whose lives? And why is this even important?! Inquiring minds want to know.

My students have been learning about conflict poetry from WWI so they know about Robert Graves who desperately missed his loved ones from the trenches, Alan Seeger, Wilfred Owen, Vera Brittain,  Charles Sorely, John McCrae and Rupert Brooke  – wait! I see that unlearned glazed look. Hold your hovering finger right there and do NOT click the back button. Go to scroll. Keep reading. Good.

Did you know that Alan Seeger was a US citizen who was killed on the fourth day of the Battle of the Somme, 4 July 1916, at the age of 28? This was one of the most famously bloody battles?  Did you know that 20% of the entire British fighting force had been killed on the FIRST day?

Did you know Wilfred Owen spent a few extremely long and lonely days in the remains of corpses in a German dugout after being blown away from his fellow soldiers? This gives the reader their window – or rampart – to view from, to undertand the immense tragedy when he went back to the front line for a second time (against his friend, Sassoon’s wishes) to be killed one week before the signing of the Armistice. My heart sinks. He had written to his mother: ” I have not been at the front. – I have been in front of it.”

Did you know Vera Brittain lost her fiance, brother, close friend, and second fiance to WWI? Also, one of her friends became blind as a result of the war and this gives context and meaning to her moving poem “Perhaps” on the grief she endured for the rest of her life.  We understand people and we can then understand their art, their writing, and see and feel their emotions through our perception of it.

Then, we might learn about ourselves. But I can’t tell them that, can I?

See how the poetry sucks/does not argument pans out next week! Be sure to click follow!

Please comment: Who is your favourite poet?

So the score this week is one in favour of poetry!

 The score

 Poetry sucks: 0

 Poetry doesn’t suck: 2