From the Cover:
“Sassoon, who lived through World War One and who died in 1967, was, as the introduction to this book tells us, irritated in his later years at always being thought of as a “war poet”. Understandable perhaps from the point of view of the poet: readers on the other hand might wish to demur. The poems gathered here and chronologically ordered, thereby tracing the course of the war, are an extraordinary testimony to the almost unimaginable experiences of a combatant in that bitter conflict.”
Sassoon is a surgeon of a poet. He can quite simply cut out your heart in ten lines.
I think he should have lived in the twitter era. If anyone could make 140 characters sting or sing it would be Sassoon.
He sucks you in with banality (the happy young soldier, the troops marching past a general) and then smacks you with a harsh reality (happy soldier commits suicide, the general gets those jovial troops slaughtered). Or he does the opposite when he describes a heart broken man mourning his brother’s loss and then ends it with a banal comment about how such men have lost “all patriotic feeling”. A century on, he makes you want to scream and yell at the doting old fathers.
I used to call poetry ‘sweetened condensed thought’ but that’s not adequate anymore because there’s nothing sweet about Sassoon or others I’ve read since but there is that element of condensation. Of taking these huge events, feelings and impressions and expressing them in so few words.
He was an amazing talent and this is a truly wonderful compilation of poems. I highly recommend it.