James M. Lindsay

The Water's Edge

Lindsay analyzes the politics shaping U.S. foreign policy and the sustainability of American power.

Print Print Cite Cite
Style: MLA APA Chicago Close


TWE Remembers: World War I Poetry

by James M. Lindsay
July 31, 2014

World War I Cemetery Soldier A French officer stands near a cemetery for soldiers killed on the front lines of World War I at Saint-Jean-sur-Tourbe on the Champagne front, December 1916. (Collection Odette Carrez/Courtesy Reuters)


I think that I shall never see / A poem as lovely as a tree.” Most Americans know the opening lines of the poem “Trees” by Joyce Kilmer. What they probably don’t know is that Kilmer was a war hero—the French government awarded him the Croix de Guerre for bravery—or that he was killed by a German sniper at the Second Battle of the Marne on July 30, 1918. Sadly, Kilmer was far from the only accomplished poet to die while serving during the Great War. Rupert Brooke, John McCrae, Wilfred Owen, Isaac Rosenberg, Charles Sorely, and Edward Thomas were among the poets who did not live to see the war’s end.

World War I was in some ways the poet’s war. Not only did many poets, and especially British poets, sign up to fight, they wrote prolifically about what they saw and felt on the battlefield. As good as histories and novels are in helping us understand the Great War, they may not match the emotional power of war poetry. Here is a sampling of World War I poems worth reading:

Not all of the significant poems about World War I were written by men who fought it in. Here are four that weren’t:

Have I missed any of your favorites? Please mention them in the comments below.

For more suggested resources on World War I, check out the other posts in this series:

World War I on the World Wide Web
World War I Histories
World War I Novels
Top Ten World War I Films

Post a Comment 1 Comment

  • Posted by Donna Morris

    None missed, though introduced to new. Thank you for this moving anthology. The excerpts from West’s “The Diary of a Dead Officer” are devastating in their realism, horror and humanity.

Post a Comment

CFR seeks to foster civil and informed discussion of foreign policy issues. Opinions expressed on CFR blogs are solely those of the author or commenter, not of CFR, which takes no institutional positions. All comments must abide by CFR's guidelines and will be moderated prior to posting.

* Required