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272 CONFERENCE NOTES By H. E. Gerber 1. Such labels as War Poets and Trench Poets are as meaningless as labels like Love Poets, Marriage Poets, Lunatic Poets, and Little Green Men from Mars Poets. These labels tell us nothing about the quality of the poems or about their authors' characteristic poetic ways and means; they tell us only that they sometimes wrote about war. In times of political, social and economic crises, poets are likely, sometimes, to write about economics, social problems, and politics. If they are good poets, they write poetry, whatever the subject may be. 2. As Joseph Cohen's paper on V/i1fred Owen clearly suggests, and as others have also suggested, poems in which the surface subject is war are seldom simply and plainly about war and war only; if they are simply and plainly about war and war only, they are propaganda, polemics, or occasional poetry. If poems are really poetry rather than editorials or sermons, they are more likely to be about men, how they feel and act and think under given circumstances. In a sense, real poetry, whatever its subject, is likely to be about poetry: the poet asks himself, What is the most suitable or the most individual means I can use to impose poetic form on this material? The genuine poet is at least as much concerned about the making of the poem as he is about the subject. 3. Our concern as scholars in English literature and as critics should be with the quality and the individual characteristics of the poetry written by the poets whose chief period of activity was, roughly, between about 1910 and the early 1920's. We may conveniently label these poets the Georgians whether they were included in Edward Marsh's GEORGIAN POETRY series or not, whether they wrote poetry about war or not. 4. Since an unmanageably large number of poets representing a wide range of quality and characteristics could easily enter into our discussion, we might best limit ourselves to a selected group generally considered the best or the most characteristic. For me such a selected group would include Wilfred Owen, Isaac Rosenberg, Rupert Brooke, Siegfried Sassoon, Edmund Blunden, D. H. Lawrence, and perhaps Julian Grenfel1, Robert Nichols, Charles Sorley, and Wilfrid Gibson. No doubt other list-makers would contrive a different list, but I suspect at least some of these writers would appear on every list. 5. Among some specific questions we might ask ourselves are these: Is the erotic motif in war poetry merely personal and thus somewhat specialized? gr does it function in the poems as or have the enriching effect of myth and symbol? Is it chiefly the changes in modern warfare that give some of the so-called Trench Poets their originality or that differentiate them from earlier poets who have written about war? Have these poets come to grips only with the demand of a "modern" attitude or have they also come to grips with the demands for new poetic techniques to express this "modern" attitude? Are any of the poets with whom we are dealing truly inventive or original, or do they merely take over unaltered, conventional forms and conventional techniques? If the latter, did they produce good work along traditional lines? 6. Still more specifically, we might consider the differences between the several "generations" of Georgians with whom Professor Ross's THE GEORGIAN REVOLT deals. We might ask whether or not there are any common factors among a significant number 273 of poets writing during the period from about 1910 to about 1920 or so. We might ask which ones stand out as especially individual voices and why they stand out. We might consider the position of specific individual poets in relationship to the Georgian group. D. H. Lawrence, for example. 7. As on previous occasions, with reference to other works and other authors, we might ask in what ways the Georgians broke with the Victorians and in what ways they prepared the way for the poets we variously call "modern" or "contemporary." ...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1559-2715
Print ISSN
0013-8339
Pages
pp. 272-273
Launched on MUSE
2010-05-21
Open Access
No
Archive Status
Archived
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