In his poem From My Diary, July 1914, Wilfred Owen recalls a time before war, with
Shaking the heavy dews from bloom and frond.
Bursting the surface of the ebony pond.
Of swimmers carving thro the sparkling cold.
Gleaming with wetness to the morning gold.
Owens watery idyll would conclude in November 1918 in quite a different body of water, when the poet died, one week before the Armistice, on the banks of the Oise-Sambre Canal, near Ors, northern France. He was 25 years old.
Wilfred Owen is remembered now as one of the foremost of a generation of soldier-poets. He was one of millions who perished in the bloodied mud of France and Belgium, leaving in his verse words to honour the dead, and to urge political leaders to ensure that these losses, this suffering of war, were not repeated. In winter 2018, at the closing of commemorations of the First World War, it is this lasting power of poetry to bear witness to suffering and implore future peace that the Royal Society of Literature celebrates. In this pamphlet, RSL poet Fellows have written new poems of peace, poems that remember the First World War and many wars since. In them, we find violence met with birdsong, the politics of power set against passion for a better world, Owens last mud-drenched weeks restored to the waters of his youth.
Interspersed with our Fellows poems are Owens own, marking the ravages of war and entreating peace. While we cannot measure the effect Owens words have had in the century since his death, the poems here, in response to his work, his life and his subjects, mark further generations of hope. Our poets strive to guide us to a better future, to return us from negotiations of violence and rage, as swimmers in ‚Äúthe sparkling cold‚Äù, out beneath ‚Äúthe shimmering trees‚Äù.
Director, Royal Society of Literature