Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Why a blog about an unknown WWI poet (and a Yank at that) ?

In a nutshell, because the war poetry of John Allan Wyeth changes the landscape of First World War literature. His body of work is like a promontory hidden by mists for three-quarters of a century, and one day the mists disperse and there it stands, commanding its own space, impossible to ignore, and altering forever the configuration of features on the land.  It is the extent and character of that alteration which contributors to this blog will explore.

To date Wyeth remains almost completely unknown.  His book of war sonnets, This Man's Army: A War in Fifty-odd Sonnets, was first published in 1928 and reprinted the following year.  The reviews of his book were not only favorable for the most part, but often remarkably prescient.  And yet the book went unnoticed by the literary world, and it sank into oblivion.

In 2008 This Man's Army was republished by the University of South Carolina Press as part of Matthew Bruccoli's Great War Series of neglected WWI literary classics.  Once again, the reviews have been favorable, and strong, but few in number. 

The real work of assessing Wyeth's place in the literature of the First World War has yet to be undertaken.  This blog represents an attempt to get the ball rolling, to approach Wyeth's work from a number of angles, and so start a number of conversations which I hope others will take up.  In addition to essays, and back-and-forth discussions, links to previously published essays and reviews on Wyeth will be provided, as well as links to other sites devoted to the literature of the First World War.

All opinions, comments & questions are welcome.  A reputation isn't built in a day, there is much to be considered, and the conversation may continue into the small hours.  So pour yourself a pint, pull up a chair, stoke up your stogie, and join in.  Never mind if your rank is PFC or PhD, or if your outfit is the Blackstrap Irregulars or Harvard U.  We leave all that stuff at the door.  All that matters here is what you have to say.

The background image used on this blog is a watercolor by Sir Muirhead Bone, "The bend of the River Somme near Corbie", which is also the location for one of Wyeth's sonnets, "Corbie to Sailley-le-Sec".  It was painted in 1918, the same year depicted in the sonnet.  Its use here is made possible through the generosity of the Imperial War Museum, under the terms of its Non-Commericial License.


  1. Dear Mr. Omanson:

    My name is Mario Domínguez Parra. I am a Spanish poet, translator and essayist. I have known of the existence of this blog through Tim Kendall's on War Poetry. I did not know the work of this poet till now. I am very fond of the work of such war poets as David Jones and Keith Douglas. I have several unpublished translation of some works by both.

    I would like to undertake the task of reading and translating some of Wyeth's poems into Spanish. Do you think that would be possible?

    My email account is:

    Yours faithfully,
    Mario Domínguez Parra

    1. Dear Mr. Parra,

      The poems of John Allan Wyeth are in the public domain, so there are no copyright restrictions. You may by all means proceed with your translation. If you publish any translations of Wyeth's poems, all you need to do is acknowledge the previous publishers of the poems (Harold Vinal Ltd; Longmans Green & Company; and the University of South Carolina Press).

      Best of luck with your project. If you publish any Wyeth translations, let us know and we will advertise them here.

      BJ Omanson

  2. for what looks like an earlier poem by Wyeth. for two paintings auctioned.