To Read Or Not To Read; That Is the Question

I’ve often wondered about literary opinion, and how literary opinion differs between people. Everyone understands the world in a different way to somebody else, and so naturally, they will understand literature differently too. Literature, and one’s attitude and understanding towards it, depends on experiences. Experiences of education, literature, whether you enjoyed your lessons when you were in primary school, whether you have a natural love of reading. These are all key factors in understanding what literature is, and whether you enjoy it, or despise it.

I know people who have yet to finish an entire book, and I suspect there are people who go their whole lives barely reading books and magazines. This is of course, a life choice. Whether you want to read or not is entirely up to you; education demands a certain amount of reading. If you choose a literature, or essay based degree, you’ll find reading to be nonnegotiable. Arts courses tend to be much more vocational, and this choice depends very much on the style of learning one is accustomed to.

Philosophy of the Mind (1)

It’s difficult to know how you’ll feel about different kinds of literature, until you experience it. For example, I don’t like all kinds of literature. I really dislike mythical Greek and Roman texts, as well as finding James Joyce’s Ulysses utterly intolerable. Some regard it as an example of the greatest literary creation of all time. I think it is a grammatical abomination, and something that is so complicated that it begins to lose its point, because it’s completely inaccessible. Conversely however, I thoroughly enjoy T.S Eliot, who is well-known for regarding literature as an elite pursuit and past time.

Philosophy is something else that is considered highbrow, and rarely brought down to an accessible level. It is complicated because it involves thinking about the makings of the universe, and theorizing on that most illusive of characters, knowledge. However it’s less complex than some think; it’s a matter of having a good teacher and a simple reader, to introduce someone to the rudimentary elements of philosophy. There’s no need to over-complicate things, and dive straight into analysis on Plato’s dialogues.

I consider literature to be one of my greatest loves, and I consider almost everything to be literature. I think that the well-written blog can be considered literature of all sorts; some blogs can be understood as literotica, some can be understood as beautiful prose. New writing is the writing that will one day be considered classic, and will belong to the modern cannon, and so I think it’s important to look at new literature, read magazines, of all kinds; fashion, photography, literary; they’re all part of a modern culture that will, like all cultures before it, be revered by future generations.

It’s all about enjoyment, you see. Culture is formulated through the things that people enjoy; a city with a strong opera programme tends to become linked to the opera as a pursuit and therefore becomes a cultural construct. To this end, we create our own culture. I’d like to think we do, at least.

(:

(1) http://philosophy.uchicago.edu/workshops/_files/Philosophy-of-Mind-Workshop.jpg

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Learning to Dance Again

I mentioned recently that I have been experimenting with other forms of exercise, really just to see if I enjoy different things more, because I’m not a natural gym bunny. I never have been, and I have always strenuously objected against all forms of exercise. I am admittedly, very poor at dance, because I lack certain important things, such as rhythm and coordination, and thanks to my Dad, I have inherited two profoundly left feet.

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However, I like to dance. That’s the problem. I only ever dance in public when I’m at some kind of social gathering, and to dance before midnight, I have to do it in a darkened room with a locked door, for fear of terrifying any passers-by with my elephantine feet. But I do dance, privately, and I’d like to be able to dance properly again, possibly in public, or at least without feeling boundless amounts of humiliation, whenever I try. There is a beauty, in dance, I think.

The challenges of dancing are numerous, not least of which because they demand fitness and commitment. One does not simply ‘fall into’ being able to dance. The best dancers dance every day, from the age of four or less, and they are amazing at it. One of my flatmates is one a dance course, and her commitment is fantastic. I wish I had that kind of commitment to what can only really be described as physical poetry. From a literary perspective then, ballet is the physical form of poetry, and the Romanticism movement. I have no real idea how to relate myself to dance, because I’ve only ever been able to relate myself to the written word, and to literary movement.

Anyway, to spare you my over-dramatic perceptions and opinions on ballet, I think it would be prudent to look at the health benefits of such activity. It naturally gives you a wonderful, toned and strong physique, and increase your cardiac strength and endurance, because you are constantly using all the muscles in your body. I like the idea of this; I find exercise that involves deep breathing boring, and I positively despise yoga; I often wonder how pointing one’s bottom in the air can be conducive to any kind of exercise at all. Ballet however encourages breathing, but also lots of moving and physical use. The use of a body to express things is wonderful, if you have the courage to do it properly.

So that’s my trend for the week, and I’ve been working on it for a couple of weeks now. All these things require some courage to admit to the blogosphere, but as one very talented and admirable fellow bloggee states in many of her posts, it is important to be honest, because after all, what is the point in existing behind a facade that simply isn’t real? There isn’t one, and I suspect it’s much easier to be honest about one’s complete lack of elegance, than it is to be completely honest about personal issues.

I’ll let you know if I become graceful. Then we’ll be sure that miracles can happen…

(:

(1) http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/3/38/Two_dancers.jpg/250px-Two_dancers.jpg

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The Day I Was Seduced By John Donne

The other day, I received books from home that I’d forgotten about; in particular, John Donne’s collection of selected poems. I studied the man for A Level, and whilst at the time, I resented him somewhat, because he reminded me of a long and stressful examination that was coming up, I realised today, that I had rather missed his company.

John Donne represents an age in poetry before anxiety, and before modernity began to swallow up literature as a whole. The poems are to some extent, simple representations of a world of love and sex, and of faith. John Donne’s poetry is divided into two distinct categories: the secular, and the divine; the latter was written in the later part of his life, during his time as a protestant minister. The former was written during Donne’s youth, when the man was an excellent example of Elizabethan sex, drugs, and rock ‘n’ roll.

My favourite poems tend to be the secular ones; they are playful, and imaginative, and continually toy with boundaries that no longer exist to the modern world. However in the Elizabethan period, these boundaries formed the basis of social propriety, and to Donne in the earlier part of his life, were something to be rejected, in favour of sensuality. An example of the seductive poetry is “Elegy: To His Mistress Going to Bed”. Donne states:

“To teach thee, I am naked first; why then,/What need’st thou have more covering than a man?”

John Donne in portrait (1)

If there was ever such a thing as the Elizabethan striptease, then this was it; the poem describes his mistress getting ready for bed, and undressing completely. As the above quotation states, Donne explicitly alludes to the pleasures of sensuality, and of female company. The poem is playful, and most certainly defied the education he received as a child, growing up as a devout Catholic. Donne however abandoned Catholicism in favour of Protestantism in the early seventeenth century, and was ordained as an Anglican minister in 1615.

Donne became much more contemplative after the death of his wife, Anne More, during childbirth, in 1617. The responsibilities of fatherhood to no less than twelve children, and his bereavement, led him to write poems rooted in mortality, and feelings towards God himself. Many of his later poems also focus on redemption, especially for the sins of his youth. In Holy Sonnet XIV, Donne declares:

“But I am betrothed unto Your enemy;/Divorce me, untie me, or break that know again, Take me to You, imprison me, for I,/Except You enthrall me, never shall be free,/Nor ever chaste, except You ravish me.” 

This rather striking quotation represents the shift in Donne’s perception of himself; his desire to be forgiven for his sins extends to wanting divinity to take full possession of him. The sexuality and passion that dominates his earlier poetry is matched in later work; the passion however is no longer directed towards pursuing carnal fulfillment, and instead, moves towards divine fulfillment. The passion with which Donne writes is in my opinion at least, unmatched by other poets of the period.

Undeniably, Donne was passionate; a poet who used linguistic devices to portray a passion that was by no means reserved for the page; it was a passion that dominated his adult life, and goes on to make his poetry very special. The move against formulaic expressions of romance captured my impressionable literary heart; he was a rebel, just as Oscar Wilde was, three hundred years later. There is nothing more seductive in literature as an author with no respect for boundaries.

(:

(1) http://paganpressbooks.com/jpl/DONNE25.JPG

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Issuu Update

So, in light of my recent, rather ponderous post, I have decided to go full steam ahead in creating a magazine prototype. So far, I have a couple of articles, a photography spread, a few opinion pieces, and two book reviews, with many thanks to http://procrastin8or.wordpress.com/book-reviews/. The minute details are being adjusted day by day; alignment seems to be a massive problem in creating magazine pages. So far, I have nearly fifty pages of creative work, and it’s really starting to come together. Not only is it starting to come together, but I daresay that it’s starting to almost look professional.

Creating the project seems to have been a rather steep learning curve all on its own. Each spread has taught me something new, especially about IT management and using technology in a creative capacity. The use of colour also seems to be of paramount important in creating something, and creating an atmosphere around the text. The colours within photographs consistently have to align with the text, and enhance it; the emphasis has to remain on the creative element of the spread, no matter how gorgeous the font, or font colour may be. I suppose it’s prioritizing; it’s placing emphasis on creativity as opposed to aesthetics.

Equally however, aesthetics is of paramount importance; the magazine should look professional, and clean. I’m seeking a crisp layout; nothing too fussy, consistent, but not mind numbing. The articles for example are all formatted in a similar fashion; the text is the same size and font, however I’ve placed a variety of images on each of the pages to break up the text, and make it more accessible.

These details seem almost irrelevant, however I find them fascinating; the smallest changes seem to be making an enormous difference to the appearance of the publication. I also keep thinking of different elements to look at including at four o’clock in the morning, and then wondering whether or not this would make the magazine seem unfocused. I haven’t quite come up with a defined idea of what I’d like the magazine to be about, at this point; I know that I want it to be creatively focused, intermixed with some serious journalism and photography projects. It’s still very much in the early planning stages, and prototype stage, but making the prototype is confirming my commitment to pursuing a career in the publishing sector. That I think, makes the project worthwhile in its own right.

However, I need some advice; I need a title for the magazine. I started off thinking of “Live Critique”, however I’m not sure it captures the imagination enough, or whether it seems a little dry, and associated with literary theory explicitly enough to be off-putting. Please tell me what you think!

(:

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Wandering Through “The Wasteland”: Part IV

To my mind at least, Part IV of the poem, “Death by Water”, is the most beautiful. It is composed of only ten lines, divided into three stanzas. As is so common in Eliot’s poetry, there is a huge amount of allusion, primarily to Phlebas, the Phoenician Sailor. As a mythological character, he seems to have influenced authors across the ages, including Shakespeare in his writing of The Tempest; Phlebas as a character is comparable to Alonso.

The most meaningful element of Phlebas’s character however is the way in which he died; he dies as a result of drowning. T.S Eliot uses water as a subliminal metaphor throughout the poem, representing fertility and the ability to resurrect; the dry nature of the waste land as described represents the importance of water. Phlebas’s death therefore is representative of a deeply spiritual death; something that is lacking throughout the poem. There are numerous references to meaningful, spiritual deaths throughout literature; again here, we can consider Shakespeare. Hamlet’s Ophelia drowns herself, her final words having already been mentioned at the end of Part II.

Phlebas- the drowned sailor (1)

Eliot makes reference in this passage to the idea of wealth, and material happiness, the very idea of which he attacked in Part III. “Forgot the profit and loss” is very striking, and contains a kind of ethereal quality; this feeling of floating continues in the second stanza of this section; “he rose and fell”, for example. The idea of a spiritual death adds a feeling of gracefulness to the passage, instead of the previously decadent and yet acerbic tone that precedes this section. This passage really compounds the feeling of change that has been, slowly, creeping into the poem; the change of descriptions occurs very slowly,  creating something comparable to a phoenix rising from the ashes.

The final line of this part is perhaps the most important however, almost serving as a warning for how people are living; how they are neglecting their spiritual lives, and how they are no longer as human as they once were. They are being degraded and being eroded.

“Consider Phlebas, who was once as handsome and tall as you.”

Eliot’s warning reverberates in the air here, it is perfectly clear, and unlike Eliot’s usual style, it is not a riddle; it seems clear that Phlebas is the example; an example of a lack of spirituality, and what becomes of those who waste themselves. Eliot tended to feel as though society was, as a whole, neglecting it’s duty to a God.

And so it seems that we are coming to the end of our little exploration through The Wasteland; the final part, Part V, “What the Thunder Said” compromises the last piece of the puzzle.

(:

(1) http://www.tendreams.org/gleeson/Phlebas%20the%20Phoenician,%201951%201ac.jpg

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A Short Note On “Lines Written A Few Miles Above Tintern Abbey”

Now, ordinarily, I’m not a fan of William Wordsworth; the endless melancholy, the continual references to the sublime; it can become quite exhausting, fifteen pages into the Lyrical Ballads. However, one particular poem, “Lines Written A Few Miles Above Tintern Abbey” (often abbreviated to “Tintern Abbey”) is somehow rather different, because it moves, ever so slightly, away from the style of his earlier, rather introverted style of poetry, and focusses a little on the relationship with Wordsworth and Dorothy, his sister.

Ordinarily, I tend to veer away from the topic of feminist criticism, because it can be contentious, and not necessarily an objective approach when criticising the actual entity that is a text. In terms of cultural and contextual criticism, it’s a fundamentally necessary approach, however in terms of the text itself, it can be somewhat narrowing in terms of interpretation. However, “Tintern Abbey” differs from much of Wordsworth’s earlier poetry, because it focusses on someone other than William, and also on Dorothy’s position in his life.

The relationship between William and Dorothy therefore is one of paramount importance within Wordsworth’s writing, and can be examined in relation to feminism due to the prominence of Dorothy’s absence. Despite being such an important literary figure herself, she had little opportunity to express it, or develop her talents; it is possible to imagine the literary significance she would have had, had she not been bound by the expectations of her gender.

I like the subtlety of “Tintern Abbey”; it is reflective, calm, and far less melodramatic, when compared with much of the earlier poetry, for example The Ruined Cottage. The structure of the poem, in five stanzas that are irregular, shows a more meandering approach taken, almost as though it is a thought process, in the writing of the poem. The poem was written several years after he actually sat above the abbey he discusses; this is very important, because the time that has passed represents a growing maturity and a rather different perspective on the world; this would also include a change in the relationship he has with his sister. The early radicalism that Wordsworth had so heartily supported was firmly pushed away, in favour of calm, peaceful poems and a more contemplative approach taken within his writing.

I like to read the Romantics only really in conjunction with aestheticism, however it is impossible to think that they were without literary merit, and their poetry is perhaps some of the most accessible ever written.

(:

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Wandering Through “The Wasteland”: Part I

As promised, today is all about Part I of The Wasteland, “The Burial of the Dead”. Even if you hadn’t read the poem, you’d immediately guess, from the title of the section that it was not to be all flowers, joy and rainbows. In fact, you’d probably feel somewhat apprehensive. The title itself however is not simply a title; Eliot disliked making superficial statements. Instead, it can be considered an allusion to the Church of England’s funeral service, and also the Cumaean Sibyl, whom we have encountered in the epigraph. The very phrase has implications of endings and rebirth outside  Christianity however, in various elements of life, including the idea of laying something to rest, and cleansing oneself of the past. The Wasteland is fraught with all manner of allusions, from religious texts to mythological ones.

Part I is broadly based on the idea of the elimination of the dead, and the deteriorating nature of society; an early example of this social deterioration is the scene in the Hofgarten, line 10. The statement of “drinking coffee” gives us the impression that the things that take place within the Hofgarten are irrelevant, and are superficial. This superfluous society is a theme that plagues the whole poem; a sense of spiritual degradation, and a lack of meaning in anything whatsoever plagues the society which Eliot describes, and is alienated from. This theme is further expanded upon in lines fifty to sixty; the idea of faux fortune was a profound departure from the fortune and path of a person as prescribed by the Church and scriptures of a number of religions. Eliot’s disdain for this falsity is portrayed in lines such as “If you see dear Mrs. Equitone/Tell her I bring the horoscope myself:/One must be so careful these days.”

An artistic interpretation of the first section of "The Wasteland" (1)

One of the predominant features of the poem as a whole, is the idea that people are blinded, or unable to see, and Eliot includes a number of blatant allusions; for example “Your arms full, and your hair wet, I could not see, and my eyes failed”, alongside others, including “Madame Sosostris, famous clairvoyant/has a bad cold”. This would mean she’d be unable to ‘see’ into the future. “Those are pearls that were his eyes” could also be considered a reference to blindness, and the inability to see past riches, past opulence, to the ‘bigger picture’. This extended metaphor for the benefits of sight continues throughout the poem, and to Eliot at least, to be a very real concern.

Perhaps  the most important part of Part I however, is the final stanza, and the allusion to Baudelaire’s Parisian ‘unreal city’. Eliot however manipulates this allusion to symbolise the working masses in London, in what is to me, perhaps one of the most moving lines in the poem; “A crowd flowed over London Bridge, so many,/I had not thought death had undone so many.” The second line in this extract is an allusion to Dante’s Inferno. The ‘dead’ whom Eliot describes are, to the author at least, a product of the Victorian Industrial Revolution, and of privatisation; they had become slaves to their jobs, and to the city; they lacked spirituality because they had become materially motivated, financially encouraged, as opposed to motivated by finding spiritual guidance, or absolution.

The theme of corruption and sexual exploitation is probably the predominant theme in the first three parts of the poem; it is not until Part IV, “Death by Water”, that a kind of rebirth seems to occur; the spirit has, to Eliot at least, be explored, and murdered for being corrupt before it can be reborn and made into something that can salvage the poem’s namesake, “the waste land”. This part of the poem however contains an almost imperceptible reference to salvation; “Here she said/Is your card, the drowned Phoenician sailor.” Here, again, we find another allusion, to the ancient mythological world, and the character who finally represents the very preliminary stages of salvation, in Part IV.

The ‘deadness’ as represented in the title of the poem is a metaphor returned to in the final lines of the poem; “That corpse you planted last year in your garden,/Has it begun to sprout? Will it bloom this year?”; the frozen ground which is described just before represents a natural deadness; a wasted land, through the lack of spirituality.

Elizabeth Harrison's copy of Dante's "Inferno", which has been an important literary text for centuries, influencing almost every significant author. (2)

In conclusion, the first part of the poem introduces a number of preliminary metaphors, concepts and allusions; the first being superficiality, and the exploitation of materialism. Added to this mixture in the succeeding section is the allusion to aesthetic and sexual exploitation. The idea of the inability to rejuvenate, and be reborn, is also introduced, as are a number of allusions to a variety of texts and concepts, including Greek mythology, Tristan and Isolde, Baudelaire, the Grail myths, Buddhism, Christianity, Dante, Petronius… the list goes on. Shakespeare also plays a significant role, later in the poem. The poet himself had two main works that influenced the writing of the plays; Jessie Weston’s From Ritual to Romance, and James Frazer’s The Golden Bough. The poem is an almost endless web of allusions, and metaphor and is possibly one of the most complicated texts ever created.

The next post will be focussed on what is in my opinion, one of the most interesting parts, because it focusses on sexual exploitation and the way in which Eliot perceived it. Part II to follow!

(:

(1) http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/d/df/Peter_Paul_Rubens_082.jpg

(2) http://archon.nl.edu/archon/index.php?p=digitallibrary/getfile&id=11&preview=long

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On the Predicament of Routine

I’ve ever so slightly fallen in love with Microsoft Office Outlook, something I’ve never been able to use properly before. The calendar function is excellent; you can colour code every element of your life, scheduling yourself in until your heart’s content. The search for a job however is prevailing; I am simply desperate for a job at university, if only to find myself some structure within this abyss of living in toy town; university day structures just don’t suit me. Arising at two in the afternoon and eating supernoodles on a regular basis is now a banned practice: I will not arise any later than eight in the morning on any given weekday. On Sundays however, I’m allowed a concession: nine am, but only if I’ve been out late the night before. The general “feeling” and routine of university life makes me feel unproductive, and I can’t stand feeling so completely swamped in apathy, so I have to try to get up and out and get things done during daylight hours, to the best of my ability. And unfortunately for students everywhere, alcohol does not make a person any more mentally efficient.

The Microsoft Outlook Icon: A Symbol of Hope For the Fundamentally Disorganised... (1)

You see, all I can think about at the moment is changing things about myself; starting an exercise routine, a better skin routine, a new part-time job. I feel as though I need a complete change, in order to see a complete physical change. Having begun changing my routine in mid-December, I’m already starting to feel the benefits of a regular sleeping and waking pattern, and the lack of junk food and excess alcohol makes a huge difference: I feel far less sluggish, and I have a plethora of energy I didn’t know existed. I’ve gone so far as to start looking at spinning classes and gym membership, and purchased cropped leggings for the purpose of attending the classes. Once the money has been spent, I feel too guilty not to make the most of the service I have paid for.

On a general point then, I’m hoping that this endless amount of energy will fuel not only the functional elements I’d like to change; hopefully it’ll move to me maintaining my blog a little better, and writing a little more, and forming ideas for novels, pictures, and plays. At this point however I digress, into the land of the optimistic, romantic artist. I like to inhabit this beautiful land, because it’s full of hyper enhanced colours and diamonds in the sky. It’s far nicer up there.

And so in this vein, I venture to share another of my works with you;  again, I’d love to hear what everybody thinks of this poem. Since it is loosely related to the theme of writing, and seeking publication in general, it would be interesting to hear what people in a similar predicament think of a poem that could potentially relate to them personally. I hope you enjoy it!

 

Letter to Talent

There was never a chance this would work. Well,
Competition, was inevitable.
There is a large, empty space, on the floor.
Scorch marks, by the fire. My carbon footprint.
The empty bottles, clink. Shame, floods my face.

The letters, the postcards. The newspaper.
Inky reminiscent. They smoulder, underfoot.
Smoke from our forefather. He founded the
Words, and songs; the poems, the plays, to us.
Dedicated literature, burning.
Scorch marks into the hardwood flooring.

Memorandum arrived, all from London.
Messages; Dear Sir; Dear Madam; Truly.
Bundles of new paper, new ideas, all
Etched into fresh, shiny ink. Sketched our words.
Seeking approval, we bid for our place.
A place in time, a magazine. A book.
A place, somewhere, anywhere to belong.

To exist, in the world of creative
Integrity, is a paradox;
Constantly, overshadowed, by bigger,
More powerful talent than your own being.
Carcinogens curl around your pale throat.
Inhaling: Have you found the mystique of
Post modernism, existing beyond
Your own suffering body? Searching for
A reason to stop stamping envelopes…

…The posting out of the charred paper: What’s left?
What is left of soul? You would (screw) everyone.
If everyone was asphyxiated
In your soulful, poetic arms,
Their charred bones. Mind.

*
(But for this agony, of attempts and failure,
Whatever is truly owed to us,
Whatever will become of us.)

-Sarah Alice

(1) http://www.medlineschool.com/Portals/12654/images/outlook.gif

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The Beginning

So, this is the first poem I’ve published on this blog myself, and I’m curious to know what everyone thinks. I’ve been somewhat nervous about doing it previously for fear of being thought pretentious and rather adolescent in my approach! Feel free to give opinions, criticism (positive!) and so forth! I hope you enjoy.

 

The Beginning

Singing. Sweetness, floral
The tiny, pink hands curled, into
Tiny fists, holding
The petals of a violet rose.

They want to have rerouted, her neurone
Route map, into thousands of minuscule
Back alleys.
The tiny pink fists, stretched upwards, reaching
For the caress of total surrender
Violet rose.

Warm, breathing on your skin.
Oxygen, condenses against the frozen glass.
The heart, remains beating.
The soft pink orb sways, every time…
You laugh- the sun, smiled down- laughed.
Violet rose.

(That, for everything, but for nothing, is beautiful.)

-Sarah Alice

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A Stroll Across the Somme with Wilfred Owen

Wilfred Owen (1)

Following on from the theme of yesterday, I began having a think about the First World War, and the implications it had culturally for England and Europe more widely. The poetry that emerged from this cataclysmic event shaped my own perception of “great” poetry; it was not complex in the same way as the modernists were, such as Eliot, and nor was it especially experimental, in the same way as Woolf. What it was, and remains to be, is simple and beautiful in its own way, something I think largely owed to the proficiency of its structure and the almost divine beauty of the metaphor and imagery used. Nothing so profoundly shocking had before been made so beautiful; consider the early murder ballads, and the unrestrained violence and depravity. It is shocking, but it is not made beautiful by the poetic forms imposed upon it.

Wilfred Owen was responsible for the war poem that perhaps epitomised the war for all: Dulce et Decorum Est. This poem was fundamentally an assassination of the meta-narrative that was behind the war, and the blind pursuit of false glory is striking when the imagery falls into place. And all of a sudden it is strikingly obvious that the life of a soldier ended, all too often, face down in a shell mutilated field somewhere in northern Europe. To a modern-day reader, it seems absurd, horrific even, that no one seems to have realised before it was too late, the total futility of the fight; perhaps however it was not futile. It’s result, when considered on a global events scales, was to create the Treaty of Versailles, which led to the gargantuan German resentment of Europe, and thus began to grow, from this political arsenic, Nazism.

That is not to say however that the individuals who fought nobly and honestly should be discredited; they succeeded in winning the war. It’s consequence is irrelevant when examining this from a short-term point of view. It is often forgotten that each individual person who died there had a family, was loved by somebody. They were not statistics. This I think is forgotten, in the same way that we attach very little individualization to the victims of genocide as a whole; they become statistics and examples, however not real lives that were lived. They are remembered as numbers as opposed to people. This is possibly what makes Owen’s poetry (and others, such as Sassoon’s) so poignant; it attached, and still does attach, a very real experience to those soldiers and avoids the broad and sweeping statements. The dead poet, who died on the fourth of November, 1918, precisely a week before the armistice was signed, allowed others just like him a voice. His voice became in many ways their voice, essentially because he was one of them.

The Great War, and the subsequent Second World War, had a rather profound and unexpected effect on society; they created “the bright young things”; people who felt as though they had been incapacitated by their lack of fathers, brothers, and uncles and instead became part of the high society whirlwind; they sought to be superficial, and extravagant in the wake of wartime severity and rationing. Religion began to fail people; Nietzsche declared that “God is dead”. And thus an almost pivotal change occurred. Consider works such as The Great Gatsby again; an immortal example of this superfluous society that lacked the artistic and moral depth of its predecessor, however made way for a new movement, in modernism and subsequent postmodernism, which really sought to prove the superficiality of the world, and to continue this premise of a lack of truth and absolute reality; without this, one’s actions can be justified regardless of what they are, and as such, lacking philosophical meaning simply means that you seek pleasure at face value, and nothing more. Nothing could stray further from the reality of Wilfred Owen.

If you haven’t had a chance thus far to have a look at Owen’s work, there is an excellent website  with all his work on. Reading them really does alter one’s perception of the experiences of the war, and of a lost generation as a whole; all remaining veterans of the First World War are now sadly deceased. The Somme itself, as well as Ypres, and other memorial sites are very moving; the images don’t do them justice.

(:

(1) http://www.wirralglobe.co.uk/resources/images/1267632/?type=display

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