Categories such as ‘pro-war’ and ‘anti-war’ often prove inadequate, when tested against the complexity of individual poems.
One of the achievements of war poetry has been to democratise poetry itself.
Its centrality in the school curriculum means that, for many, it represents their first encounter with poetry – and not just in Great Britain.
Other important soldier-poets include Edmund Blunden, Ivor Gurney, Robert Graves, Edward Thomas, David Jones, Francis Ledgwidge, and Isaac Rosenberg, and of course the golden-haired young man whose ‘begloried’ war sonnets they all opposed and yet one who haunts their work: Rupert Brooke.
More than any other genre – fiction, memoir or film – it is the poetry of the trenches, as represented by a small group of ‘anti-war’ soldier-poets, that has come to dominate First World War memory.