illustration of two soldiers, one in a kilt, standing in front of a trench

World War I Poetry

June 2017

Continuing with our commemoration of the centennial of the United States' involvement in World War I, and inspired by a June program, "Bards of War: Poets at the Western Front 1914-1918," the Library's June exhibit focuses on poetry from and about World War I. (The illustration at right is from "Songs from the Trenches" by British poet Captain Charles W. Blackall.)

Left display case, with several volumes of WWI poetry

At the time of World War I, print was still a dominant medium. The printed word recorded the lamentations and exaltations of soldiers and their families, emergency workers, and civilians caught in the midst of war. Poetry was a chosen vehicle of expression for them.

center display case, with several volumes of WWI poetry

There is great diversity in the voices of the World War I poets that comes across through the text; for example, the reader may detect British inflections, French figures of speech, and Prussian dialect. 

right display case, with additional WWI poetry books

The bulk of original World War I poetry books were published between 1915-1920.  Many selections from these books were later anthologized. The New York State Library holds a number of the original works, some over one hundred years old, some containing photos and illustrations.

After the exhibit, these books will be available for loan, depending on their condition.

Exhibit curated by Michael Meyer, with preservation assistance from Kerry Shermer.

Last Updated: June 20, 2017