There Died a Myriad...
War is prominent among the forms of human experience that have most readily stimulated poetry. In combat both mind and body strain at the end of their tether.
On and beyond the battlefield deep passion stirs, as hope and fear, exultation and despair, love and hatred, anger and compassion powerfully contend. Think back simply to the complex ferment of feeling aroused, just three springs ago, by the armada that sailed from the Solent towards the South Atlantic and by all that ensued half a world away.
Our contemporary anxieties about the mode and scale of future conflict – and doubtless also, for some, a certain nostalgia about participation in campaigns past – have helped to sustain a market in poetic anthologies focusing on war. The efforts of the Salamander Oasis Trust, dedicated to publishing the literary record of service in the Mediterranean sphere during the earlier 1940s, is one particularly interesting example. Catherine Reilly's Scars Upon My Heart, gathering poetry written by women in response to the Great War, constitutes another. Now there appears, as a newcomer on the University Press' distinguished anthological list, The Oxford Book of War Poetry.