They stuffed his lungs with poppies and crushed him
under a cenotaph. Where they weep.
from ‘How dear is life’ – Steve Ely
On National Poetry Day 2014 four of the UK’s most exciting contemporary writers performed searing new work responding to the legacy of the First World War. The poems were subsequently published as a limited edition anthology, The Pity.
The work of Steve Ely, Zaffar Kunial, Denise Riley and Warsan Shire explores the theme of conflict from many angles; from advice published in Vogue in November 1916 on how to ‘dress becomingly after a death’, up to the execution of British hostage James Foley in August 2014. Each writer explored their personal responses, as well as their family connections to not only the Great War, but to other conflicts that have touched lives.
John Glenday‘s poem, ‘The Big Push’ provides a short coda to the volume. A parallel commission, his poem takes inspiration from Sir Herbert James Gunn’s 1916 painting, ‘The Eve of the Battle of the Somme’, held in The Fleming Collection of Scottish Art. The book is beautifully designed by Liam Relph and features an image by the artist Rachel Goodyear.
“This is heady poetry of conviction and the persuasiveness of phrase-making…”
– Martyn Crucefix reviews The Pity on his blog.
The Pity was supported by The London Community Foundation and Cockayne – Grants for the Arts.