Poetry and prose

In his first-rate Ivor Gurney documentary on BBC4 yesterday, Tim Kendall rightly pointed out that Gurney is exceptional among Great War poets because of his specificity (naming fellow-soldiers), his communication of soldiers’ conviviality, and his depiction of the routine of military life.

It struck me that these are exactly the qualities I value in war prose, in Patrick MacGill’s The Red Horizon, in Frederic Manning’s Her Privates We, in Alfred Burrage’s War is War, and many others.

Take a break from the poets, Tim! Come and explore some prose!


  1. Posted March 31, 2014 at 9:38 am | Permalink

    Very kind, George. Glad you enjoyed it! As for prose, I get confused by any writing which hits the right-hand margin…

  2. janevsw
    Posted April 1, 2014 at 1:28 am | Permalink

    I very much enjoyed it too! And assumed that the difference may have been that Gurney was not an officer? I don’t know whether, for example, Isaac Rosenberg shares the same specificity (haven’t really thought about it). And David Jones is different again…

    • Posted April 1, 2014 at 9:07 am | Permalink

      Rosenberg is specific about his own experience (sometimes graphically so) but doesn’t have Gurney’s interest in the community life of other soldiers – maybe because he felt isolated, and was bullied.
      David Jones is even better than Gurney at giving us the soundscape of the War. I’ve promised myself the pleasure soon of going through In Parenthesis again, looking for song-related references.

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