The War Poets Association

June 2015

Dear Members and Friends,

The War Poetry Review 2014-15, the Journal of the War Poets Association (WPA), edited by the eminent war poetry and First World War scholars Santanu Das and Kate McLoughlin is now available.

The Review is dedicated to the memory of Jon Stallworthy, a great friend of the WPA, who died last November and includes a conversation on War Poetry in which Jon and Santanu took part in 2012 with Andrew Motion and Michael Longley. There are in addition a number of excellent articles by distinguished contributors and the Committee takes this opportunity to thank very warmly the editors for their hard work on the Review and all the contributors for their most welcome contributions.

The Review is being posted to all current WPA members who have asked for a copy and will also be posted on our website: for members who have asked not to have a copy but to see it online.

The WPA Committee will be meeting again in the summer to continue our plan- ning for the Somme visit in October 2016. More detail of where we are on this is set out over the page.

In addition, the Committee is considering a joint event with the Wilfred Owen Association to be held probably in November and when we have something definite on this we will post details on the website.

Please keep in touch with us, via the website and e mail, with your ideas on war poetry and what the WPA should be doing. We are also always looking for support and new committee members with ideas and enthusiasm.

With best wishes for 2015 from the WPA Committee,

David Worthington, Chairman.

The Ballard of Whitechapel and Silver Road



IRON HONEY GOLD: Isaac Rosenberg – An Evening of Words and Music

Sunday 26 April from 7pm – 9pm at The LJS

Presentations of Isaac Rosenberg’s poems and letters

Featuring Michael Rosen, Elaine Feinstein, Lee Montague, Philip Bell, Simon Haynes and Jean Moorcraft Wilson
Click Here for more information



January 18th 1935-November 19 2014

The death of Jon Stallworthy has saddened all who knew him, and all who knew his work. His numerous books – his acclaimed biography of Owen, his edition of Owen’s Complete Poems and Fragments, his study Between the Lines: Yeats’s Poetry in the Making, or, most recently, his New Oxford Book of War Poetry – both set the standard for the scholarly criticism and editing of war poetry, and brought countless readers to a deeper appreciation of the work of some of the century’s finest writers. More than anyone else in the last fifty years, he has shaped and enabled our understanding of the poetry written across two world wars. He tirelessly promoted the work of others – as editor, as critic, and as friend. Yet he was also a gifted poet himself, a poet of both love and war. This is from his 2009 sequence ‘War Poet’:

Without you, I am learning

about death. It cannot be true

that you – you – you –

and my numbness turning


to anger. But however slow

the fire, however deep the seam,

it will burn out, they say, in time.

In time for what? Forgiveness? No.


Acceptance? How should I resign

Myself to knowing that you lie

Under another sky

In other arms than mine?


Fran Brearton

Take up our quarrel with the foe:

To you from failing hands we throw

The torch; be yours to hold it high…

            From In Flanders Fields by Lt-Col John McCrae (1872- 1918)

And Finally

Words don’t usually fail me, but it’s hard describe the three and a half days we’ve just spent in the Ypres area, on a battlefield tour organised by The War Poets Association. Does it seem a strange thing to choose to do – guided through those terrible, magnificent cemeteries in Flanders, maintained with such care and honour by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission? To study the work of great poets who have helped to define the First World War for us? To reflect on numbers of the dead so vast, so unfathomable, so indescribably cruel that your head reels and your eyes stare with incomprehension, beyond weeping?

            Sad and exhausting it certainly was (although we also had merriment and good conversations with like-minded people in our group) yet you return with your mind freshly angry at the thought of the catastrophic carnage while your spirit is humbled and uplifted by the power, the pity of war. Two years ago we went (with the same group) to The Somme; this centenary year we had to make another pilgrimage.

            A similar spirit of remembrance is taking thousands of people to see the powerful ceramic poppy installation at The Tower of London, knowing exactly what it represents as they stand silent before its beauty. We too were silenced at Tyne Cot, the largest cemetery (nearly 12,000 names) for Commonwealth Forces in the world – and also at Langemarck, where the total number of German soldiers buried or commemorated stands at 44,234. And each name invoking grieving mothers, wives, sweethearts, grandparents, children….

            So in love, awe and gratitude we went to bow our heads before history and sacrifice. On Monday night we were present at the 29,744th ceremony of remembrance at the great Menin Gate in Ypres (or ‘Wipers’ as my grandfather called it, who was there). As the crowd of something like 2,000 stood to hear the Last Post and then the band of the Duke of Lancaster’s Regiment played our National Anthem, I felt so very proud to be British. And I know that the fight to uphold and protect our values can never end.


The Times & The Sunday Times Cheltenham Literature Festival, Wilfred Owen Poetry & Music Of The Great War

11th October at Cheltenham College Chapel.

, click here to book online or call 0844 8808094

Many thanks


Leonard Pearcey and Sophie Ward will be telling the Edith Cavell story in Bath Abbey on 30th October 2014.

Full details of a WW1 Commemoration, The Cool Web: A Robert Graves Oratorio and the Edith Cavell story in Bath Abbey on October 30th 2014.  Full details on

Carcanet have recently announced  the publication of War Poet, selected poems by the Wilfred Owen Poetry Award winner Jon Stallworthy and Fall In, Ghosts: War Prose by Edmund Blunden, edited by Robyn Marsack. Jon Stallworthy wrote a biography of Wilfred Owen and Edmund Blunden was an early editor of Owen’s poetry.

War Poet by Jon Stallworthyimage002

Jon wrote his first poems during schooldays shadowed by the Second World War and a mother’s memories of a brother and friends killed in the First. At school, too, he was introduced to the poems of Wilfred Owen, whose biography he would later write, and to those of others who would be represented in his Oxford Book of War Poetry (1984, 2nd edition 2014).

 Jon Stallworthy attended Magdalen College, Oxford, where he won the Newdigate Prize of Poetry. A Fellow of the British Academy and of the Royal Society of Literature, he is a Professor of English Literature at Oxford. His biography of Wilfred Owen won the Duff Cooper Memorial Prize, the W. H. Smith Literary Award, and the E. M. Forster Award of the American Academy of Arts and Letters.

image005Fall In, Ghosts: Selected War Prose by Edmund Blunden

Edmund Blunden moved among the ghosts of the Great War every day of his long life, having survived the battles of Ypres and the Somme. His classic prose memoir, Undertones of War, and his early edition of Wilfred Owen’s poems were just two examples of the ways in which he sought to convey his war experience, and to keep faith with his comrades in arms. His poetry is suffused by this experience, and he was haunted by it throughout his writing life, as the men with whom he had served gradually joined the ranks of the departed.

 Edmund Blunden (1896-1974) was born in London. He received his commission in 1915 and served throughout the war, earning the Military Cross and, unusually, evading physical injury. Returning to Oxford in 1919 he became a close friend of Robert Graves and later Siegfried Sassoon. He went on to a long and successful literary and academic career, including positions as Professor of English at the Universities of Tokyo and Hong Kong, Assistant Editor of the Times Literary Supplement and Fellow of Merton College, Oxford. In 1947 he was part of the British liaison mission to Tokyo. He died at home in Suffolk in 1974.

 Robyn Marsack is the director of the Scottish Poetry Library. She completed her BPhil at St Anne’s College, Oxford and her DPhil at St Catherine’s College, Oxford. She recently edited an anthology of translations by Mikhail Lermontov.

I am organising a Sixth Form Conference on ‘Poetry of the First World War’ at Haileybury College on Friday the 17th of October.

Adrian Barlow and Simon Armitage are confirmed as keynote speakers. There will be a panel of papers by pupils and a roundtable discussion involving teachers. There’s also a poster competition for pupils to present their research into a WW1 Poetry topic.

Places at the conference are free. There is a link to information about the conference on the school’s website

Kind regards,

Tom Day

British Library free foyer exhibition Enduring War: Grief Grit and Humour on until 12 October.

It includes key war poet manuscripts from Binyon, (In Memoriam) Owen (the poetry is in the pity &c), Sassoon, (his protest letter) Rosenberg (letter to Gordon Bottomley)- would interest all WPA members.