In the end, I guess it was all just a curious happenstance - we studied two particular poems at Academy, sometime between my second and fourth years. The first poem was called 'Dulce et Decorum Est' and it had a profound affect upon me, both on my thoughts and on my life. The second poem was 'Anthem for Doomed Youth' and it's affect was much the same. Key words from both those poems, and the images that they create, have remained in my mind to this day (even before I pick a book up and read them again). They're still capable of a powerful impact, almost 100 years on from when they were written, their words vividly conveying the horror & tragedy of the Great War, and of war itself. That was the first time I realised how truly powerful poetry can be at expressing a feeling or an experience, and in a way that also allows someone else (a reader or a listener) to really feel something unique too. In a strange way, it is a reflective realisation, that I came to while looking back to the past from the present. That's good - it's always welcoming to learn something new about yourself, as life is all about learning (at least, I feel it should be). The poets name is Wilfred Owen, and in these two poems (along with all of his poetry) he is immortal. Along with William Wordsworth and Samuel Taylor Coleridge, he is without a doubt my favourite poet. I always return to Owen's work, particularly when I am looking for inspiration in my own writing, and I often think back to those two poems. I'm drawn to Owen, Wordsworth and Coleridge the most because they each connect with me in some way, deep within my soul. Like them I wish to express my experiences in life, including my love of nature and the night sky, and poetry is a remarkable way to do that. If I am able to continue a little of their inspiring tradition in any way, then it will all have been such a tremendous honour.
I believe it is much fairer to allow people to discover the work of Wilfred Owen for themselves (with few SPOILERS!) and, indeed, to encourage people to buy his work (and honour the copyright); so I'll only elaborate on a line of each, from 'Dulce et Decorum Est' and 'Anthem for Doomed Youth'. That will give a good flavour of two striking pieces of prose, by someone who was (and is) a striking poet.
From 'Dulce et Decorum Est' - "As under a green sea, I saw him drowning" - There's no other way to write about this without a slight SPOILER, but it works even better when not in isolation, rest assured! This is the most effective description of a gas attack that I've ever read. To equate the experience, part of it, with drowning is something that we can all relate to - being underwater, short of breath, and unable to catch it. That it is definitely one of my own fears. It really hit me, when I first read this line as a teenager - the feeling of fear, and the horror of death and suffering, that being surrounded by gas must have induced. Even then, it's still only a glimmer of what those men really went through. A strength of the whole poem, and Owen's poetry, is his effective use of analogy to give us a very real feeling, and something deep and meaningful to think about.
From 'Anthem for Doomed Youth' - "Only the stuttering rifles' rapid rattle" - This gives me an image of rifles firing being the only sound in the air, a constant drone, with a constant field of injury and death. This is a brilliant and powerful use of alliteration, which is what gives that constant impression I feel. Owen is a master of using these different sorts of techniques in his poetry.
There's a beautiful, poignant and poetic tale, of a tribute to Wilfred Owen that was completed in 2011. It was covered in a BBC radio programme, available to listen online - 'Bleached Bone and Living Wood'. There is also an audio slideshow that is worth giving a look & listen - 'Wilfred Owen: From humble cottage to dazzling tribute'. The audio for the slideshow may only be available to those in the UK, I'm not sure (if so, I apologise), but there is enough there to read and research further about.
In turning over my thoughts, about what to write in this opening article, I picked up my copy of Wilfred Owen's 'The War Poems' again, and I had a scan through the extremely illustrative introduction. I noticed one particular paragraph towards the end. It related that it was Owen's wish to help the men under his command, both "directly by leading them" (as "an officer") and "indirectly, by watching their sufferings that I may speak of them" (as "a pleader"). He managed to achieve both (although he only believed that he'd achieved the former) and he was awarded the Military Cross. Then the final line hit me - that he didn't live to wear his award, or to see the majority of his poems published. He did not live to see that he would always be remembered. That is the real tragedy of men like Wilfred Owen. In the greatness of his writing, we can (and must) ensure that his name remains forever immortal. Not just as a tribute to him, but as a tribute to all those young men. Let everyone be worth something, big or small, and their memory live eternal.
Reference: Wilfred Owen - The War Poems, edited by Jon Stallworthy, Chatto & Windus Limited, 1994 (reprinted 2000, 2001), ISBN 0-7011-6126-4. No copyright infringement is intended in any of my article.