The poetry of the First World War has become so popular that the phrase ‘war poetry’ is now taken to mean not war poetry in general (there have been poems written about every war), but only the poetry of the First World War.
War poetry is as complex as the war itself and the people who fought in it. Many of the best-known poems and poets were killed in the war, and never saw their poems published. Some lived on, but a number never seemed to scale the poetic heights they had reached in the war. Many people think Siegfried Sassoon’s later work did not match his war poetry, and another famous survivor, Robert Graves, wrote little war poetry and became at least as well-known as a novelist as he was as poet, following the war.
Some poets such as Rupert Brooke took pride in the war, whilst others such as Owen and Sassoon wrote bitterly against what they saw as its pointless sacrifice. In between these two extremes the war poets expressed every possible opinion. The best-known poems and poets are those who were clearly outraged by the scenes on the front lines of the battlefields.