In this week’s Dispatches from The Secret Library, Dr Oliver Tearle heads to Leicestershire in search of that county’s finest poet of the Great War
Arthur Newberry Choyce (1893-1937) is not a famous name, even among readers of WWI poetry. The Wikipedia page for his birthplace says nothing about him. His poetry is not widely known or read. Yet Choyce is perhaps Charnwood’s great forgotten poet of the First World War – maybe, even, Leicestershire’s greatest poet of WWI.
Choyce was born in Hugglescote, a small village near Coalville and located some ten miles to the west of Loughborough, in 1893, the same year as Wilfred Owen. As a young man he joined the Leicestershire Regiment (known as ‘The Tigers’), and became a Second Lieutenant in the 9th Battalion. At the outbreak of war, the regiment appointed Choyce their official war poet. In 1917, he published the first of several volumes of poetry, Crimson Stains, which carried the subtitle Poems of War and Love.
Crimson Stains shuttles between life in the trenches and the world back home for which Choyce was fighting. Several of the poems mention Read the rest of this entry
In this week’s Dispatches from The Secret Library, Dr Oliver Tearle celebrates the poet and thinker who died 100 years ago this week
On 28 September 1917, T. E. Hulme was killed in action in Oostduinkerke in Flanders. Hulme’s death, as Robert Ferguson records in his biography, The Short Sharp Life of T. E. Hulme, was particularly brutal: he suffered a direct hit from a large shell which literally blew him to pieces. What was left of him was buried in West-Vlaanderen, Belgium where he is described in the war graves records as simply ‘one of the war poets’.
In some ways, this is a decidedly inapt description of Hulme. His entire poetic output was slim – including verse fragments it stretches to no more than 20 pages – and he wrote all of his poetry in the years preceding the outbreak of the First World War in 1914. But the poems he did write helped to forge a new form and style for English poetry.
T. E. Hulme was a larger-than-life figure in virtually every way. Standing at over six feet tall, with a ruddy complexion, a willingness to argue with anyone (or, indeed, Read the rest of this entry
A summary of a classic WWII poem
Keith Douglas (1920-44) described his poetry as ‘extrospective’, a neat coinage designed to dovetail with the more usual introspection of much English poetry. Douglas, who was killed during the invasion of Normandy on 9 June 1944, aged just 24, is now regarded as one of the greatest British poets of the Second World War, and ‘Vergissmeinnicht’ is one of his most celebrated poems.
Three weeks gone and the combatants gone
returning over the nightmare ground
we found the place again, and found
the soldier sprawling in the sun.
The frowning barrel of his gun
overshadowing. As we came on
that day, he hit my tank with one
like the entry of a demon.
Look. Here in the gunpit spoil
the dishonoured picture of his girl
who has put: Steffi. Vergissmeinnicht.
in a copybook gothic script. Read the rest of this entry