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Wilfred Owen: A New Biography – A Review

Posted on July 28th, 2014 by Anna in Books, Reviews - Staff

Wilfred Owen biogrpahy

Wilfred Owen: A New Biography by Dominic Hibberd

Read by: Anna/Central Teen Room

Wilfred Owen was a young poet who believed that ones personal experiences made for the best poetry. He was born in 1893 and spent a good portion of his teenage years teaching English in France. His mother was Evangelical in her religion and so was Wilfred for most of his life. He began to question the beliefs of the church after spending a year as a parish assistant, eventually cutting the job short and moving to France. In a new country, he learned a good deal more about the ways of life, however, the Great War was just starting up and he began to feel guilty for not serving his country. In October 1915, he joined the British Army in a regiment known as The Artists’ Rifles, which had begun life  as a Volunteer Corps for actual artists. There, they trained him to become an officer. In joining the Army, he met other poets who were able to put him in touch with bookstores and publishers. He began to write more and more poetry, basing it on his new experiences in the army and on some of the work by his new friends. His work grew steadily better and everyone was talking about the new promising poet. A few of his poems were published in magazines. He also spent a good deal of time with suspected homosexuals such as Oscar Wilde and Scott Moncrieff, the latter being attracted to Wilfred enough to write him poems. And though Wilfred doesn’t seem to return the affection toward Scott Moncrieff, he does send his affection and hero-worship toward another male poet and soldier, Siegfried Sassoon. Yet, there is nothing to suggest that any of his relationships were of a sexual nature. Wilfred was in and out of action during the war, suffering from shell shock, or what we now call Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. His poetry reflects what he has seen and cuts no corners. They are as truthfully written as ever they could be. However, in 1918, in the middle of the very last battle, when Wilfred had finally made up his mind to be a full-time poet after the war, the unthinkable happened. Wilfred was helping his men cross a canal when he was shot and killed. He was only 25.  He may have died an early death, but his poetry still lives on, and is still just as relevant nearly 100 years later, as it was when he first put it down on paper.

There are many things we will never know about Wilfred. When he went into the Army, he gave his mother a sack of papers, presumably letters to friends and family and drafts of poems too private to show anyone. He told her to burn the sack should anything happen to him and she did. Also, his younger brother, Harold, held many grudges against Wilfred and went through the surviving letters and other papers, editing them to suit his needs. Never-the-less, this biography is the most complete biography of Wilfred Owen, to date, though Hibberd does acknowledge that there may be other papers of Wilfred’s in an attic or two between England and France, waiting to be discovered. Before this book was published there were several others, though Hibberd notes that they were distinctly lacking in many facts, mostly due to family interference. (There appears to be a new biography published in March 2014, though how it compares to this one, I cannot say, as I have not read it yet.)

I enjoyed this biography a lot. It’s very long and detailed, going over every inch of Wilfred’s life. But by the end, I felt as if I had met him and had time to chat with him awhile over a cup of tea. Finishing the book felt like leaving a good friend. I did my best to read this one chapter a day, so yes, it took me awhile to get through it. But it was totally worth it in my opinion. The only thing I would have liked the author to do, was to have given translations to the French. There were several lines copied from French poems that were not translated into English, so what they said, I do not know. Otherwise, I thoroughly enjoyed this biography, especially as it included many pictures of Wilfred, his family and friends, and others mentioned within the text. It also included several maps of the battles Wilfred was involved with to help the reader orient themselves while reading the details of what was going on. All in all, this was a very well researched and well written book. If you have need to read a biography and have the time to get through this one, I highly recommend it.

I also recommend getting a copy of Wilfred’s poems, so that you can read them as they are mentioned in the biography. One should not read the biography without having some knowledge of his poetry. I recommend The Poems of Wilfred Owen edited by Jon Stallworthy, as it contains most of the poems mentioned in the biography. Below, I have included one of his most popular poems that speaks on the horror of war.

Anthem for Doomed Youth

By Wilfred Owen

What passing-bells for these who die as cattle?
      — Only the monstrous anger of the guns.
      Only the stuttering rifles’ rapid rattle
Can patter out their hasty orisons.
No mockeries now for them; no prayers nor bells;
      Nor any voice of mourning save the choirs,—
The shrill, demented choirs of wailing shells;
      And bugles calling for them from sad shires.
What candles may be held to speed them all?
      Not in the hands of boys, but in their eyes
Shall shine the holy glimmers of goodbyes.
      The pallor of girls’ brows shall be their pall;
Their flowers the tenderness of patient minds,
And each slow dusk a drawing-down of blinds.

 

Source: The Poems of Wilfred Owen, edited by Jon Stallworthy (W. W. Norton and Company, Inc., 1986)

Off the Cuffs: Poetry by and about the police – A Review

Posted on September 18th, 2012 by Anna in Books, Reviews - Staff

Off the Cuffs: Poetry by and about the police Edited by Jackie Sheeler

Read by: Anna/Copley Teen Room

This book includes a wide variety of poems by police officers, witnesses, journalists, bystanders, protesters, victims, perpetrators, and others. It tells the stories of those who have witnessed crimes, who have commited crimes, who’ve worked hard to stop crime. These poems reach out and explain what life in jail is like, what life without Daddy is like when Daddy is sent to jail for something he did wrong. They mention the heartache police officers face every day when they see young children in bad situations, when they are forced to shoot someone to save themselves and others nearby. They share part of the souls of those who were wrongly brutalized by the police, who want justice served. This large collection does not discriminate in any way, shape, or form. It tells police work like it is, the good right along with the bad.

This is a great collection for anyone who enjoys crime literature, or anyone who loves the genre known as Street Lit. or Urban Lit. It’s a gritty telling of the truth, and towards the end, of some people’s dreams which involve the men and women in blue. It shows officers and detectives, not just as the people who wear a uniform and uphold the law, but as the complicated human beings they truly are, just like you and me. Inside, they are no different. They fear, they love, they hate, they cry, mourn, work hard, and try to be the best they can be every day. It’s not always easy. But this book does a great job of portraying all of that through multiple viewpoints. I greatly enjoyed this book and highly recommend it, especially as poetry makes for a quick read. It’s just too bad this book isn’t being printed anymore. I think it should be.  However, you’re in luck, as the BPL has a copy available! So check it out today. You’ll be glad you did.

Another poem

Posted on May 15th, 2012 by Mary in Teen Services

This poem was written by ButterflyAmy.

 

Remember

Do not forget who I am today,
For tomorrow I will be but a memory.
No longer can we share a story,
Or a touch of hand, for I have gone away.

Do not forget to think of me
Of the dreams we shared of forever,
And of the times we spent together.
I will live on in your memory.

Do not forget to remember me
In times of happiness or sad.
But if you do, do not feel bad,
For I am only in your memory.

In life I wish for you all the joy,
Peace and love that you can be.

Even More Teen Poetry…

Posted on April 30th, 2012 by Anna in Events, Programs

“Revolution” by M.

Only we will

kiss the fire

one heart blazes war

but near the sun

comes absolute light

“Friends” by M.

Friends are something

special,

friends are something

you have to hold on to,

make each day last,

keep your friends

close some might say,

but keep your heart

closer.

“The End Of The World As We Know It” by Mary Devine, Teen Librarian

Skyscrapers tipping

Broken windows

the Earth reclaims with Nature

Green lucious trees and plants

Vines winding floor to floor

Animals reclaim their kingdom

Cars and metal become rust

Humanity eliminated

Piles of Dust

All we are is dust in the wind,

Dude!

More Teen Poetry…

Posted on April 30th, 2012 by Anna in Events, Programs

“I Dance” by Brianna

I dance

dance to the rhythm you left me in

the rhythm that you used when my mom

has your pleasurable shelter.

The type of rhythm that the savages

used when their freedom was about to

come.

I dance to that rhythm. That rhythm

of life.

 

I see you when I dance

I see the eyes that capture me when

I was born.

The two hands that held me in your

strong arms

the hands that went through dirt and

pulled out the struggles of what you

went through.

 

But I can’t feel you when I stop

moving.

So I take each step so I can see you

as my father.

I take each step to feel you

but every time I lose my way

try to find music to help me breathe

 

Sometimes I don’t know who you are

cause when I stop dancing

the building around me shut down

the people turn around and face each other

and the love for each other on the

inside fades away

 

the bruises on my mom’s arm

appears.

And the happiness you once felt turns to be anger

I wonder why you are like this

cause God stopped playing the music

I wonder why you are not listening

cause the grooviness of your step lost

its way

I wonder why you don’t see me anymore

cause the music in our lives stop showing

a happy image.

I can’t take it when everything stops

cause I stomp my feet to hear singing

and I stomp my feet to the beat to breathe

in life.

I stomp my feet to end the fighting

that’s going on

I tap my feet to bring back your

heart from hell.

 

I try to bee the reason of the

had autotune violent music in our

house.

But I breathe in the soulness of

the 60′s, 80′s, and 90′s.

To get a trace of what a family

of music should be like.

 

So I dance, dance to the stress of the beat

I dance, dance to the anger it its

tone.

I swing my hair in the air of

madness

and shake myself up and down

to get the happiness flowing

I sweat cause I need to survive

so I can get a happy home in this

house we call saintairs home.

I dance cause it’s the only freedom

I call my mother.