PN Review Print and Online Poetry Magazine
Most Read... Rebecca WattsThe Cult of the Noble Amateur
(PN Review 239)
Mark FordLetters And So It Goes
Letters from Young Mr Grace
(aka John Ashbery)

(PN Review 239)
Henry Kingon Toby Martinez de las Rivas
(PN Review 244)
Eavan BolandA Lyric Voice at Bay
(PN Review 121)
Vahni CapildeoOn Judging Prizes, & Reading More than Six Really Good Books
(PN Review 237)
Jamie OsbornIn conversation with Sasha Dugdale
(PN Review 240)
Poems Articles Interviews Reports Reviews Contributors
OUP PNR 246 Banner
Monthly Carcanet Books
Next Issue Alex Wong embarks on Ausonius's Moselle Christine Blackwell recalls Jonas Mekas Lives of Graves, Trilling and Curnow visited New poems by Lisa Kelly and Jodie Hollander Andy Croft on the 'poetry industry'

This review is taken from PN Review 33, Volume 10 Number 1, September - October 1983.

CHARMING THEIR GHOSTS Siegfried Sassoon, The War Poems ed. Rupert Hart-Davis (Faber) £2.95

It must have seemed for a time that the 1914 war had altered British poetry utterly and for ever. To boys reading in school libraries in the 1930s and 1940s, too young to know the latest London fashions, it certainly did seem so. Indeed we know now from memoirs and letters that the war poets thought of themselves at one time as a coherent group. The newspapers had created that. Characters like Robert Nichols, and to some extent Sassoon, went about after 1919 as if to be a war poet was a career. I am sure that Spender's young idea of 'being a poet' and Auden's hardly more complicated view of his calling derive in some measure from the public voice, the prophetic crying aloud, of the poets who had fought in France.

And yet what really altered in poetry did so otherwise, or by other means, through Pound and Eliot and through the progression of movements that had begun before the war. Everyone had already suddenly burst out singing, as it were, in Sassoon's diary in 1914: his post-war vision of pacifism and socialism was only an interrupted Georgian dream. The most, recent volume of his diaries to appear covers the war years; it reveals a pathetic youthfulness, a terrible intellectual incapacity, which makes the poetry and the suffering all the more painful. His war poems are quite direct, they were shaken out of him by an almost physical process. They have the awful truthfulness of ...


Searching, please wait... animated waiting image