Archives par mot-clé : Wilfred Owen

Wilfred Owen, or ‘1914’ in Scouse: a review of ‘Wilfred Owen in/and France’ and Wilfred Owen / Resonances Exhibit

JENNIFER KILGORE-CARADEC

Keywords
World War I, Wilfred Owen, World War I Centenary, Memorial Sites, Ors

Review

‘Wilfred Owen in/And France’ and Wilfred Owen / Resonances Exhibit (Symposium, November 5-10, 2018 at Mont Huey Campus and at the Forester’s House in Ors, Exhibit November 5-6, 2018, Université Polytechnique Hauts-de-France; organized by Elise Brault-Dreux, Brigitte Friant-Kessler, Nicolas Devigne, and Sarah Montin) 

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We are presently commemorating the centenary of the Armistice, as no one can ignore after the French government’s inspired ceremony on November 11 immediately followed by the Peace Forum where the world leaders were in attendance, excepting the notable absence of Donald Trump. Further afield from international media coverage, researchers have been grappling with issues of remembrance too. For those who wonder how remembrance can be more than the mere empty shell of a ritual, the art students at University Polytechnique Hauts de France may provide some valuable insights. They prepared artworks about Wilfred Owen’s death, 100 years ago on November 4, 1918, interacting with Owen’s famous poem, ‘Dulce et Decorum Est’ under the guidance of Brigitte Friant-Kessler and Nicolas Devigne.  Before they began preparing their artworks, on view in the Resonances Exhibit, they visited the Forester’s House in Ors, which is where Owen spent the last evening before he was killed, and they also visited his place of death. 

            The memorial site was renovated and opened to the public in 2011. A description of the place on the Wilfred Owen Association website insists on the house looking like ‘a solid sculptural object’. Indeed it does from the outside, and resembles a sanctuary on the inside, where draft versions of Owen’s most famous poem, ‘Dulce et Decorum Est’ are inscribed on glass panels that cover the walls. Dally Minogue and Andrew Palmer, authors of The Remembered Dead (CUP 2018) described the artful choices made by Simon Patterson in the renovation and design of the Ors Forester’s House memorial  during the conference ‘Wilfred Owen in/and France’. They emphasised how the place itself honours Owen’s poetry as much as it honours the poet. Visitors descend a curving white walkway in which Owen’s last letter to his mother, written in this place, is engraved in the walls. A hush goes with them into the cellar where Owen and some 26 other men took shelter, lit a fire, ate dinner, and wrote letters before going to battle in the morning. It is a small space, amounting to less than one square meter per person for sitting, sleeping, and eating. It is no wonder that Owen mentioned the smoke of the fire in a letter that was otherwise euphemistic and reassuring.

            The art students of Université Polytechnique Hauts-de-France saw the manuscript of Owen’s poem on the glass surrounding the walls on the ground floor of the house. They took the opportunity to read and understand the text, and they visited the places on the recommended walking tour, including the place of Owen’s death and his grave. This resulted in various artworks, from paintings to collages, films, photographs, and sculptures. ‘Dulce et Decorum Est’ was translated into Chinese and juxtaposed with a poem by Chairman Mao on a fan and then photographed. The artworks were often subtle and all transmitted emotion. The transpositions were particularly powerful. They provided a memory that was actualised and in action. An introduction to the exhibit Resonances was given by Nicolas Devigne and Maxime Turpin with Marcel Lubac during the conference.

            Why did Owen decide to return to France, after suffering shell shock during the Battle of the Somme, and being treated at Craiglockhart Military Hospital (where he met Siegfried Sassoon and Robert Graves, much as Pat Barker poignantly described in Regenerationin 1991)? As the French specialist of British War Poetry Roland Bouyssou explained during the conference through one of Owen’s letters, Wilfred wrote that he felt like a shepherd to his men. His desire seems to have been to try to help others through the experience of that hell that he knew so well. He was an officer, but from a different background, and had grown up speaking Scouse more than Received Pronunciation, as Paul Elsam pointed out. Elsam recited ‘1914’ with a Scouse accent—demonstrating the point that Owen was a poet from lower classes, as opposed to landed gentry (though he did, before he died, frequent the Sitwells). He considered that school children today should be exposed to Owen’s poetry with the same Scouse accent, since it would make his poetry seem more accessible to a wider audience.

            ‘Owen in/and France’ was the occasion to remember the role of France in Owen’s life: he started learning French while still young, and prided himself on learning it. He read La Chanson de Roland, Daudet, Verlaine, Flaubert, Renan…and proved to be, at least on one level, just as influenced by French symbolism as T.S. Eliot. While teaching English in Bordeaux (beginning September 1913), one of his students suggested he spend the summer vacation tutoring her child in English. So on July 30, 1914 he arrived at Bagnères de Bigorre. War then broke out, and people looked at him askance, wondering why he had not been drafted. A few weeks later he met a figure that greatly influenced the course of his poetry, Laurent Tailhade, who may be rapidly described as a satirical poet, single handedly playing the satirical role of Charlie Hebdo during his time. Tailhade  wrote against anti-dreyfusards in Poèmes aristophanesques(1904). Owen was eventually given the book by the poet, and asked his mother to send him his copy in a letter—and then volunteered to go to war in September 1915. He had been aware of 60-year-old Tailhade volunteering to go to the front in autumn 1914.

            Wilfred Owen is the best known British war poet today, thanks to Benjamin Britten’s War Requiem, first performed at the consecration of Coventry Cathedral in 1962, and also thanks to Pat Barker. But while Owen is still not a household name in France, there is little excuse for such ignorance, because his poetry has been translated into French by Xavier Hanotte, who also made Owen a fictional character in one of his mystery novels, as Joseph Duhamel noted. Gilles Couderc, specialist of Benjamin Britten and a native of the Pyrenees, spoke of Owen’s possible attraction to Catholicism while at Bagnères de Bigorre where he would have seen Lourdes, if only from the train.

            Neil McLennan, a Scottish historian speaking to some forty budding young historians who made a point to be present at the conference, asked everyone to cross their arms, and then attempt to cross them a different way, to concretely demonstrate how difficult it may sometimes be to take new insights about subjects we think we know. He has located the golf course in Edinburgh where Owen, Sassoon and Graves met.

            Jérôme Hennebert offered a very intense paper on the French poetics of Owen, moving from English romanticism through French Symbolism and Decadence back into Owen’s war poetry. It was complemented by Laure-Hélène Anthony’s paper about Owen’s last completed poem, ‘Spring Offensive’ and by Michael Copp’s paper showing that Pound as well as Owen drew from the poetry of Laurent Tailhade. Thomas Vuong then offered an analysis of all of Owen’s sonnets to see if the forms were English or French.

            Conference participants visited the exhibit Résonances in detail during the inauguration evening, rejoicing in the student’s profound interpretive works. The conference ended the following day with a visit to the Forester’s House in Ors, where we were greeted by the mayor of Ors, who well understands the importance of the place for all poetry lovers. Damian Grant recited two of his poems about Owen, and they were also shared with us in French by Madeleine Descargues. After that, it remained for us to visit the cellar where Owen and and the other soldiers  huddled during his last evening alive. Arriving at the ground floor, we all observed the Owen poems projected on the walls in respectful meditative silence.

Jennifer Kilgore-Caradec teaches English at Université Caen Normandie and co-edits Arts of War and Peace with Mark Meigs.


Can Literature and the Arts Be Irenic?

“We go to poetry for one reason, so that we might more fully inhabit our lives and the world in which we live them, and that if we more fully inhabit these things, we might be less apt to destroy both.”  —Christian Wiman, editor of Poetry.

Citation  Arts of War and Peace 1.2. (November 2013)  Can Literature and the Arts Be Irenic?  http://www.awpreview.univ-paris-diderot.fr

Can literature and the arts be irenic?  How are the arts a unique vehicle for promoting peace?  How do they enhance memory?  How do the arts play a role in the formation of public opinion?  What possible effects could they have in policymaking?  How might literature and the arts be a vehicle of resistance to tyranny? While the role of epic poetry has often been to present the heroic grandeur of wars past, providing a type of justification for wars future, some poets have endeavored to depict the horrors of war in such a way that the cost of human suffering penetrates the reader’s consciousness. This issue examines and theorizes the role of literature and the visual arts in search for “positive” peace (the elimination of causes of violence and the avoidance of conflict) and the creation of a peace culture, by drawing attention to the writer or artist’s method and form, circumstantial motivation, use of memory and language as counter-propaganda, as well as reception by the public.

The importance of literary and artistic contributions to the obtaining and preservation of peace has been recognized by awards such as the Peace Prize of the German Book Trade, the Erich Maria Remarque Peace Prize (awarded to Mahmoud Darwish in 2003), and others, often lesser known, such as the Leeds Peace Poetry Award or the Barbara Mandigo Kelly Peace Poetry Award. Although the connection between the arts and the search for and preservation of peace is instinctively acknowledged, its exact nature is imprecise. This issue opens considerations that should be further explored.

The word “peace” itself may be considered problematic.  Is it merely the absence of war?  Thesaurus and dictionary listings for the noun and adjectival forms of the word include the following synonyms that inspired some of the authors of this issue:  Peace, peaceful, peacefulness, concord, harmony, harmoniousness, friendship, cordiality, amity, amicableness, goodwill, accord, agreement, pacification, conciliation, truce, neutrality, ceasefire, armistice, nonaggression, nonviolence, calm, calmness, tranquility, serenity, restfulness, repose, quiet, quietness, silence, hush, still, stillness, placidity, composure, repose, relaxation, rest, restfulness, serenity, pacific, pacifist, peace-loving, unwarlike, nonviolent, nonaggressive, non-belligerent, non-combative, mild, easygoing, gentle, amiable, amicable, friendly, good-natured,  peacemaking, placid, even-tempered, irenic, dovish, conciliatory, placatory, inoffensive, pacification, peaceful, quiet, restful, serene, tranquil, undisturbed, restful, balmy, harmonious, cordial, friendly, strife-free, peaceable.

The papers offered in Arts of War and Peace 1.2 result in part from a conference held in Caen (November 2010), co-hosted with Claire Bowen, as well as several articles originally planned for a projected issue of LISA e-journal, called “Poetry of War / Poetry for Peace.”  In many ways AWP has grown out of LISA and the encouragements of Renée Dickason, who is deeply thanked for allowing several earlier papers to be printed here.

In addition the issue of Arts of War inaugurates publication of original translations. Poems by the German poet Ernest Stadler are translated into French by Julien Collonges and into English by Richard Sheppard : the expressionist “Awakening,” written in 1913, may now be read as prophetic. For readers of Stadler, other translations exist in French by Philippe Abry, Eugène Guillevic, and Lionel Richard and in English by Michael Hamburger. Closing the issus are new poems by Owen Lowery, some of which suggest memory’s role in building a desire for peace.

Edited by Jennifer Kilgore-Caradec, 8 November 2013.

Michael Rotenberg-Schwartz
The Limits of Gore and Sympathy in Pacific Poetry: Southey and Hunt against an Augustan Tradition_8nov2013

Katharine Peddie
Auden’s Revisions and the Responsibility of the Poet

Cathy Parc
A Poet Laureate’s Front-Line(s): How to Wage a War of Words for Peaceful Purposes

Claire Bowen
War Pictures for Peace: Ernst Friedrich’s War Against War

Agnès Blandeau
The irenic effect of the Middle Ages on wartime England through film: the example of A Canterbury Tale by Powell and Pressburger (1944)

Adrian Grafe
Your sort of poet’s task: Tony Harrison’s ‘A Cold Coming’

Jennifer Kilgore-Caradec
Overlord vs. the Din: Writing Poetry to Promote Peace Now

Mary Kate Azcuy
Louise Glück’s Irenic Poems, “Crater Lake” and “Averno”

Anne Mounic
The Poetic Voice and the Paradox of Plenitude

TRANSLATIONS

Deux poèmes d’Ernst Stadler traduits par Julien Collonges

“The Awakening” translated by Richard Sheppard

NEW WORKS

Poems by Owen Lowery

The Fallen & the Unfallen

The title of this inaugural issue, The Fallen & the Unfallen, is drawn, by way of homage, from Geoffrey Hill’s first collection of poems, For The Unfallen (1959).  The cover illustration is a photograph of the memorial stone for poets of World War I found in Poets’ Corner at Westminster Abbey (unveiled November 11, 1985). The list of names is framed by a quotation from Wilfred Owen, “My subject is War, and the pity of War. The Poetry is in the pity.”

Some of the papers presented in this issue result from workshops held at the University of Caen that examined poetry from First World War poets, and works inspired by them.  While the shift from the poetry of World War I to poetry about the Vietnam War may seem a bit abrupt, in fact it was soldiers’ shell shock that motivated many of Freud’s studies, leading to his theories about trauma during and immediately following World War I. Trauma theories have played a significant role in our perception of the Vietnam War.  Furthermore, it was during the Vietnam War period that war poetry from World War I came into general public appreciation.  Jon Silkin fostered a renewed appreciation of World War I Poetry in Britain, with an influence extending to other English speaking countries, by way of his periodical Stand, which in 2012 celebrated its 60th anniversary.

I would like to thank Rosanna Warren for the candor of her interview, Jon Glover, Stephen Romer and Jeffrey Wainwright for their poetry, and the contributors who have submitted state-of-the-art articles and generously offered reviews for this inaugural issue. My heartfelt thanks is also due to Michael Taugis who provided assistance and editorial footwork.

It is particularly moving for me that the inaugural issue presents work by Thomas Christopher D’Arcy and Dominic Hibberd. The former has written about war poetry and has had the personal experience of being a soldier.  The latter regrettably passed away this past August. Dominic Hibberd was a groundbreaking scholar who ensured that Wilfred Owen and Harold Monro would be of interest to future generations. He was also endowed with a pleasant spirit. It was my privilege to show him a small part of Caen and its University when he attended a workshop there in 2005.

Edited by Jennifer Kilgore-Caradec, March 2013.

Dominic Hibberd
A note on the origins of 1914-1918 ‘‘war poetry’’

Gilles Couderc
The War Requiem: Britten’s Wilfred Owen opera

Marie-Noelle Provost Vallet
Ghosts in Craiglockhart: Sassoon’s textual presence in Pat Barker’s Regeneration

Jennifer Kilgore-Caradec
Resisting the Rhetoric: Memory in the Poetry of Ivor Gurney

Roland Bouyssou
In Parenthesis: A War Liturgy

Thomas Christopher D’Arcy
War Trauma, Recovery Narration, and the Need for Resistance: The Case of D. F. Brown’s Vietnam War Poetry

Jon Glover
Truth, Introspection and Extrospection

ENCYCLOPEDIA

Jean-Michel Panoff
The Biological Targets of Chemical Weapons

REVIEWS

Antoine Capet reviews “The Vorticists: Manifesto for a Modern World” (Tate Britain, 2011)

Monique Lojkine Morelec reviews Antoine Choplin, Le héron de Guernica (2011)

Beatrice Pire reviews Jonathan Franzen, Freedom: A Novel (2010)

Carole Birkan-Berz reviews Geoffrey Hill, Clavics (2011)

INTERVIEW

And about the Mud… Rosanna Warren

NEW WORKS

A poem by Jon Glover

Two poems by Stephen Romer

Two poems by Jeffrey Wainwright