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This review is taken from PN Review 143, Volume 28 Number 3, January - February 2002.

FROM CAM TO SOMME Cambridge Poets of the Great War: An Anthology, edited by Michael Copp (Associated University Presses) £36.50

In his informative introduction to his Great War anthology of fifty Cambridge poets whose poetic responses were written between 1914 and 1921 (the only exception being Charles Sorley's strangely prophetic piece of juvenilia 'Premonition', written in 1908), Michael Copp sets out his selection criteria clearly. He says: 'I have elected to include many poems without imposing restrictive value judgements on my choice.' His anthology offers the reader a representative sample from fifty distinct voices (forty three men and seven women) who at the time of the conflict had Cambridge connections. Importantly, Copp does not limit the Cambridge writers to the university; he states; 'Many were members of one of the colleges, some went to school or lived in Cambridge, and others were related to university men.' The anthology's aim, then, is not simply to re-publish the canonical antiwar poems of Sassoon, the patriotic sonnets of Brooke, or the exceptionally perceptive poems of Charles Sorley; rather, Copp offers a cross-section of various voices with connections to a particular place at a particular time in history.

In a sense, the poetic quality of the various poems included in this volume is not as important as the nature of the responses themselves. Some of the less accomplished poems in the anthology convey the difficulty, for example, of accepting the sudden death on the battlefield of a family member, a sweetheart, or a friend. Kathleen Wallace's sequence of five poems commemorating her brother Basil's death demonstrate that some unrefined poetry can ...


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