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No matter what we may think about them, wars are part and parcel of human nature and history. Cave paintings in various places around the globe show examples of prehistoric warfare and it seems that since then men have never stopped fighting other human beings.

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Having been born two decades after the end of the Second World War in a region where many of the World War I battles were fought, I have always been aware of the impact of wars on the different generations. There were places where playing was forbidden because shells might still be buried in the ground. My parents had stories to share about growing up during the war while one of my grandfathers was a Prisoner of War in Germany for four years.

Where there is man, there is also poetry. No area of human experience has generated more powerful feelings than war – whether it is hope or fear, exhilaration or humiliation, hatred or love.

The oldest example is probably Homer’s Iliad, which chronicles the events at the end of the Trojan War.

“Let me not then die ingloriously and without a struggle, but let me first do some great thing that shall be told among men hereafter.”

“Like the generations of leaves, the lives of mortal men. Now the wind scatters the old leaves across the earth, now the living timber bursts with the new buds and spring comes round again. And so with men: as one generation comes to life, another dies away.”

“Let me not then die ingloriously and without a struggle, but let me first do some great thing that shall be told among men hereafter.”

One of the oldest war poems in the English language is probably The Battle of Maldon, an early battle poem written in Old English, that gives a vivid and poignant account of the last stand of Anglo-Saxon warriors against a troop of Danish invaders in 991.

Closer to us are the numerous war poets of The Great War – poets who evoked the horror of life and death in the trenches and on the battlefields rather than the glory of war. The most famous are probably Edward Thomas, Isaac Rosenberg, Wilfried Owen, Robert Graves, Ivor Gurney and Siegfried Sassoon. Who has never heard of Dulce et Decorum Est by Wilfred Owen or In Flanders Fields by Canadian John McRae?


To His Love by Ivor Gurney

He’s gone, and all our plans
Are useless indeed.
We’ll walk no more on Cotswolds
Where the sheep feed
Quietly and take no heed.

His body that was so quick
Is not as you
Knew it, on Severn River
Under the blue
Driving our small boat through.

You would not know him now…
But still he died
Nobly, so cover him over
With violets of pride
Purple from Severn side.

Cover him, cover him soon!
And with thick-set
Masses of memoried flowers-
Hide that red wet
Thing I must somehow forget.


The Korean and Vietnam Wars produced war poets as well as anti war poetry and protest songs. Similarly the Iraq War has produced some notable war poets such as Brian Turner whose debut collection, Here, Bullet, won the Beatrice Hawley Award in 2005.

“Open the hurt locker
and see what there is of knives
and teeth. Open the hurt locker and learn
how rough men come hunting for souls.”

Since September we have been commemorating the hundredth anniversary of WW1 and around November 11th we will particularly remember the men who came from the four corners of the earth to fight in Europe between 1914 and 1918, and thus I would like you to write a war poem.

What does war evoke for you? Does your family have any war memories? What are your reactions to the war that are fought in various places today, those which are broadcast every day by the media or hardly ever get any coverage? Try to imagine what going to war, or having a loved one going to war feels like.

Express your thoughts, memories and feelings about war in a poem.

What to do after you have written:

• Post your poem to your blog

• Add a link to your poem via the ‘Mr Linky’ below

• Read and comment on other people’s work to let them know it’s being read

• Share via your favorite social media platforms

• Above all, enjoy the creative process!