The poetry that came out of the First World War exposed, for the first time in history, the real horror of war. This terrible honesty and truth found their perfect expression in poetry as in no other form. The result is an extraordinary record of passionate feelings and appalling experiences, written by men and women from widely different backgrounds, of unique and enduring importance. Hibberd and Onions are acknowledged experts in the field of Great War literature. Their book demolishes numerous myths and misconceptions, demonstrating, for example, that the first poems of protest and frontline realism were written by civilians, not by soldiers; that many soldier-poets continued to believe the fighting had to go on; and that many of the war poets who are famous today were unknown and far from typical at the time. All the major poets are generously represented, but here too are many unfamiliar yet remarkable poems, often not conforming to the usual modern assumptions about 1914-18 verse.
Accompanying notes to the poems, historical events and the poets give precise, relevant information and suggest links to other poems, so the book as a whole forms a fascinating, moving narrative as individual writers struggle to respond to catastrophic events and scarcely imaginable horrors. Breakfast - We ate our breakfast lying on our backs, because the shells were screeching overhead. I bet a rasher to a loaf of bread that Hull United would beat Halifax when Jimmy Stainthorpe played full-back instead Of Billy Bradford. Ginger raised his head and cursed, and took the bet; and dropt back dead. We ate our breakfast lying on our backs Because the shells were screeching overhead. Wilfred Wilson Gibson, October 1914, whose poems were the first of their kind, preparing the way for Sassoon, Owen and others.
Dominic Hibberd and John Onions co-edited the anthology Poetry of the Great War in 1996. This new book represents their work and research since. Dominic Hibberd's publications include highly praised biographies of Wilfred Owen and Harold Monro; John Onions's include Fiction and Drama of the Great War 1918-39.