Poems to share

The Letter

With B.E.F. Jun 10. Dear Wife,
(Oh blast this pencil. ‘Ere, Bill, lend’s a knife.)
I’m in the pink at present, dear.
I think the war will end this year.
We don’t see much of them square-‘eaded ‘Uns.
We’re out of harm’s way, not bad fed.
I’m longing for a taste of your old buns.
(Say, Jimmie, spare’s a bite of bread.)
There don’t seem much to say just now.
(Yer what? Then don’t, yer ruddy cow!
And give us back me cigarette!)
I’ll soon be ‘ome. You mustn’t fret.
My feet’s improvin’, as I told you of.
We’re out in the rest now. Never fear.
(VRACH! By crumbs, but that was near.)
Mother might spare you half a sov.
Kiss Nell and Bert. When me and you-
(Eh? What the ‘ell! Stand to? Stand to!
Jim, give’s a hand with pack on, lad.
Guh! Christ! I’m hit. Take ‘old. Aye, bad.
No, damn your iodine. Jim? ‘Ere!
Write my old girl, Jim, there’s a dear.)

Published in “Wilfred Owen: The War Poems” (Chatto & Windus, 1994) ed. Jon Stallworthy. Reproduced by kind permission of The Wilfred Owen Association.

Wilfred Owen

National Poetry Day Ambassador Joshua Seigal says...
'I chose this poem in part because I think its use of old-fashioned slang and its colloquial voice might be interesting to a contemporary audience used to more formal war poetry. The poem is also interesting in its interspersing of two separate voices, a technique which pupils likewise can experiment with.'

Wilfred Owen was an English poet and soldier, one of the leading poets of the First World War. Among his best-known works – most of which were published posthumously – are 'Dulce et Decorum est' and 'Anthem for Doomed Youth'.