“There is nothing retrospective in memorialising the Great War. In some ways, its immensity makes it a continuously contemporary event. Whether we are aware of it or not, it resonates through us all.”
– John Glenday, 2014
The poetry of the First World War is some of Britain’s most well known and celebrated literature. It has also been the medium through which successive generations have best come to understand the human tragedy of the conflict.
The Poetry Society worked with a wide range of partner organisations to mark the centenary from 2014 to 2018, by commissioning new work from contemporary poets and artists, and producing events and resources which explore the war through its poetry. We commissioned a new filmpoem of ‘The Big Push’ by John Glenday to commemorate the centenary of the Battle of Somme, which took place 1 July 1916, available to watch above.
The First World War defined the early history of The Poetry Society. Our magazine, The Poetry Review was founded in 1912, and throughout the war years its pages were dominated by poems described as “directly influenced by the heavy pressure of current events.” Several of the best-known poems of the war were first published here, such as Thomas Hardy’s Men Who March Away. Contributors included Rupert Brooke, Leslie Coulson, Will Streets, Julian Grenfell and Marian Allen.
From here you can explore some of our centenary projects, and read some related poetry.
Projects and new commissions include, The Pity, The Big Push, The Christmas Truce, and Memory & Memorialisation. We also worked with Royal Mail in selecting poetry for their commemorative First World War stamps, issued each year from 2014-2018.