Introduction to Wilfred Owen
Few would challenge the claim that Wilfred Owen is the greatest writer of war poetry in the English language. He wrote out of his intense personal experience as a soldier and wrote with unrivalled power of the physical, moral and psychological trauma of the First World War.
All of his great war poems on which his reputation rests were written in a mere fifteen months.
From the age of nineteen Wilfred Owen wanted to become a poet and immersed himself in poetry, being especially impressed by Keats and Shelley.
He was working in France, close to the Pyrenees, as a private tutor when the First World War broke out. At this time he was remote from the war and felt completely disconnected from it too. Even when he visited the local hospital with a doctor friend and examined, at close quarters, the nature of the wounds of soldiers who were arriving from the Western Front, the war still appeared to him as someone else's story.
Eventually he began to feel guilty of his inactivity as he read copies of The Daily Mail which his mother sent him from England. He returned to England, and volunteered to fight on 21 October 1915. He trained in England for over a year and enjoyed the impression he made on people as he walked about in public wearing his soldier's uniform.
He was sent to France on the last day of 1916, and within days was enduring the horrors of the front line.
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