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The Penguin Book of First World War Poetry

4.23  ·  Rating Details ·  844 Ratings  ·  32 Reviews
Unrivaled in its range and intensity, the poetry of World War I continues to have a powerful effect on readers. This newly edited anthology reflects the diverse experiences of those who lived through the war, bringing together the words of poets, soldiers, and civilians affected by the conflict. Here are famous verses by Rupert Brooke, Siegfried Sassoon, and Wilfred Owen; ...more
Paperback, Revised Edition, 320 pages
Published May 1st 1997 by Penguin Classics (first published July 26th 1979)
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The Trigger by Tim ButcherAll Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria RemarqueThe Guns of August by Barbara W. TuchmanA Farewell to Arms by Ernest HemingwayBirdsong by Sebastian Faulks
The Great War
402 books — 515 voters
The Iliad by HomerThe Collected Poems of Wilfred Owen by Wilfred OwenCivil War Poetry and Prose by Walt WhitmanThe Penguin Book of First World War Poetry by Jon SilkinThe Bhagavad Gita by Krishna-Dwaipayana Vyasa
War Poetry
33 books — 12 voters

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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
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C. Michael
Sep 12, 2011 C. Michael rated it it was amazing
What is it about World War I that garnered such a deluge of superb war poetry? There has been wars since man stood erect and poetry almost as long? So what was the magic held by those predominantly British soldiers that enabled them to capture horror and dread in such introspective confines as verse? In reading this Penguin collection, I found that neither Wilfred Owen nor Siegfried Sassoon were the best poets...that distinction must go to Edmund Blunden, whose poetry is both probing and compell ...more
Jan 03, 2014 Pink rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Harrowing and heartbreaking poems from WW1, mostly written by soldiers in the trenches 100 years ago.

“In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn saw sunset glow
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields

Take up our quarrel with the foe;
To you, from falling hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high
Mar 18, 2011 Meen rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Meen by: Found it at this great used book warehouse in Knoxville with Nathan
Shelves: own-it, la-poesie
8/23/11: Jeezus, this took forever. I couldn't review this if I tried b/c it ended up being the book I carried around for reading on the subway, and I don't actually go into the city that much, so I'm rarely on the subway. The introduction was really long, and the editor suggests that Rosenberg is the superior poet to Owen (the other "great" WWI poet), but I liked Owen's poems the best. I would like to read more of his work. This was also a lesson that I can't read big collections of poetry. I n ...more
Yara (The Narratologist)
Note: I read the second edition, published in 1981. From what I understand, Penguin now sells George Walter’s In Flanders Fields repackaged as the new Penguin Book of First World War Poetry. Check which edition you’re getting if you decide to buy a copy!

Now, before you all grab your pitchforks and come after me for giving anything less than five stars to a book that has work by Wilfred Owen in it, let me explain: I did not deduct points for the poetry itself. Where this collection fails, quite s
Nov 04, 2012 Serena rated it really liked it
The Penguin Book of First World War Poetry (Second edition) edited by Jon Silkin and David McDuff is a collection of poetry from and about the WWI. Silkin and McDuff increased the number of poems in translation included in the collection. There are poems translated from German, French, Italian, Russian, and Hebrew, and Silkin was a poet himself. As expressed in the not at the beginning, “For some, war was moral athletics; others looked forward to the experience of war as a ‘vacation from life’ — ...more
Mar 25, 2008 Antoine rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: great war enthusiasts
Recommended to Antoine by: Prof Richard "A-minus" Cody
One of the books from my semester-o'-world-war-one, in the spring of 1990. This one was, I think, from the English class, though it may have also been assigned reading for the history class as well. The poetry itself runs the gamut, from the conventional and sentimental "pep" works from early in the war (some from poets, like Rupert Brooke, who died before ever seeing combat at all, and others from poets too old for combat, like Kipling), to full fledged "trench poetry" by the likes of Wilfrid O ...more
Aug 12, 2013 Martin rated it it was amazing
Shelves: poetry
There were a huge number of lives sacrificed in vain in the first world war. Some of them were poets of the highest caliber. Other great poets survived the battles and returned home. Whether you are reading the poetry of someone who died in the war, or survived, this collection is one of the most moving you will ever read. Highly recommended.
Annette Hart
Sep 24, 2009 Annette Hart rated it it was amazing
Shelves: poetry
I always like to dip into this in the run up to Rememberance Sunday. It's a good way of reminding me of what those men went through, physically and emotionally, almost 100 years ago. This collection has both the classics and some lesser known poems and includes poets from both sides of the conflict.
Oct 03, 2016 Rick rated it really liked it
Shelves: poetry
Wars, good and bad, are ugly, de-humanizing, soul-destroying things. This is indisputably true, both history and literature gives proof to this. Yet the preponderance of bad or unnecessary wars to necessary ones in the world’s history is aided and abetted by a willful disregard of this truth. Homer and the Greek tragedians made it clear. So too have writers who write from witness ever since.

The testimony from the First World War, the so-called Great War (great because of its size not because of
russell barnes
Feb 15, 2015 russell barnes rated it liked it
Shelves: poetry, ww1
Having written an amazing essay on WW1 poetry for my GCSEs I thought I knew about this stuff. Turns out I should've paid more attention to the critics who harshly savaged my lengthy dissection of 'If I should die...' with a 3 out of 10 and a scraped 'C'.

However my groundwork in disappointment stood me in good stead because once I'd managed to wade my way through editor Jon Silkin's dense intro it now all makes perfect sense.

Obviously as he's choosing the selection, the poems neatly illustrate h
Crystal Rand
Jun 09, 2015 Crystal Rand rated it it was amazing
The view of war in this book was really depressing, however you can really understand how war affected so many soldiers. The prominent theme in the poems was often about the lost of innocence, which results from the soldiers seeing lives lost and blood shed right in front of their eyes. My favorite poem was "Everyone Sang" because it showed how the aftermath of World War I really took a toll on the United States. The poetry here, really explored all of the feelings during World War I, as there's ...more
Aug 18, 2016 Blort rated it it was amazing
This was a bit of an impulse pick up from the library, but this book is what changed my outlook on poetry.

Before this, I'd only read a couple love poems, a few narrative poems here and there, but none touched me or even struck me as vaguely interesting. These poems were raw and abrasive. They conveyed war in a way I'd never seen before. Captivating.

"The Show", "The Sentry" by Wilfred Owen
"Nocturnal Landscape" by Anton Schnack
"In the Trenches" by Richard Aldington
"The Deathbed" by Siegfried Sass
May 15, 2014 Naomi rated it really liked it
Shelves: poetry
I particularly appreciate the focus on the development and changes in poetic form, tone, and timbre that the editor uses to shape this anthology. Including diverse voices and utilizing poets both popular at the time and who gained attention posthumously and/or after the war, this collection is large and thorough, though never complete since there was a profusion of poetry written from this war. A fine volume to read and reflect upon, meeting these men and women trying to make sense of what is of ...more
Belinda G
May 01, 2014 Belinda G rated it really liked it
Really good, comprehensive anthology of poems. This will definitely become a staple for me!!

I particularly think the foreward is fantastic and I like how the poems are categorised. It makes for much easier searching for themes and helps to find poems you weren't necessarily familiar with beforehand.
Nov 09, 2014 Mary rated it really liked it
Shelves: poetry
This is an emotionally searing collection of poems, which can make this a tough read at times. The words of Wilfred Owen and Siegfried Sassoon are here joined by lesser-known poets like Isaac Rosenberg, as well as poems presented in translation. Particularly welcome is the addition of some poems by women and other noncombatants.
Mar 24, 2011 Jim rated it liked it
Recommends it for: Poetry beginners
Shelves: poetry, 20th-century
With contributions from a diverse range of people including war poets Wifred Owen and Siegried Sassoon and authers D.H. Lawrence and Rudyard Kipling this book contains a respectable selection of poems. If you haven't got into poetry but would like to try it without comitting to one writer then you could do worse than read The Penguin Book of First World War Poetry.
Jackson Cyril
Mar 12, 2016 Jackson Cyril rated it it was amazing
Read and weep. By the end of the slaughter, even the arch-jingoist Rudyard Kipling--who had lost his son-- was writing "If any question why we died/tell them, because our fathers died". The collection only focuses on British poets, but I can't imagine reactions from other combatants to be much different.
K.M. Weiland
May 22, 2012 K.M. Weiland rated it really liked it
All in all, a good collection of WWI-era or -inspired poetry. It's beautiful, wrenching stuff that, quite honestly, is difficult to read sometimes. I appreciated the selection's broad range, which included French, German, Russian, Italian, and female voices.
Angel Serrano
Colección de poesía anti belicista escrita durante o con motivo de la I Guerra Mundial por poetas británicos o traducida de poetas franceses, alemanes, italianos y rusos. Aunque el tema es común, el enfoque varía del más generalista hasta el más concreto, destacando el detallismo de los alemanes.
Andrew Latham
Dec 01, 2013 Andrew Latham rated it it was amazing
Some of the most moving poetry every written. Includes, but goes way beyond, the usual suspects. As we approach the centenary of the outbreak of the War to End All War this ought to be on everyone's reading list.
Randi Brown
Brilliant book of poetry that really got my thinking about waste, fear and WWI. Big influence in writing a novel set in WWI. HIGHLY recommended to the point that I can't imagine not having read it (and I rarely say that). Even if poetry is not your "thing" take a look.
Richard Harries
Nov 16, 2014 Richard Harries rated it it was amazing
Shelves: degree, favourites
I particularly enjoyed the work of wilfred owen and how he exposed the horror and stupidity of war in such work as, dulce decorum, and , anthem for doomed youth.
Jan 11, 2009 Petra rated it it was amazing
This book brings the war to life and really underscores the emotions that accompanied people onto the fronts.
Jun 03, 2013 Tallburt rated it it was ok
Shelves: poetry
Death, mud, gas, mud, death, more death, trench-foot, gas and, err, death.

An anthology of tortuous and depressing stanzas.
Mar 01, 2008 John rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: plays-and-poetry
War poetry at its simple best.

There has always seemed to be something about conflict and human tragedy that has bought about the artistic best in man... this collection is ample proof of that.
Elise Jensen
Nov 12, 2010 Elise Jensen rated it really liked it
Shelves: poetry, for-school
And so begins my love affair with Siegfried Sassoon and Wilfred Owen.
Apr 28, 2012 Donna rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Horrible introduction and there is no organization or even dates to the poems, but the poetry itself is outstanding. And I say this as someone who never reads poetry.
Jul 28, 2012 Laura rated it it was amazing
A comprehensive anthology of this genre/period giving a wide selection of themes involved in this type of poetry for anyone studying and a moving selection of poetry those who are merely interested.
Penni Russon
Apr 16, 2012 Penni Russon rated it it was amazing
Read in conjunction with Regeneration by Pat Barker and then later I read Alan HOllinghurst's The Stranger's Child. A great collection, though I would have liked to have seen more female poets.
Kath Schofield
Kath Schofield rated it liked it
Mar 29, 2013
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  • The War Poems
  • The Collected Poems of Wilfred Owen
  • Up the Line to Death
  • The Oxford Book of War Poetry
  • Undertones of War
  • In Parenthesis
  • Death's Men: Soldiers of the Great War
  • The Great War and Modern Memory
  • Some Desperate Glory: The First World War the Poets Knew
  • World War One British Poets: Brooke, Owen, Sassoon, Rosenberg and Others
  • The Roses of No Man's Land
  • Collected Poems
  • The First Day on the Somme
  • Collected Poems of Thomas Hardy (Wordsworth Poetry) (Wordsworth Poetry Library)
  • The Metaphysical Poets
  • The Mersey Sound: Restored 50th Anniversary Edition
  • Rites of Spring: The Great War and the Birth of the Modern Age
  • The Collected Poems of Rudyard Kipling

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