A Corner of a Foreign Field:
The Illustrated Poetry of the First World War

Fiona Waters (editor)

Transatlantic Press 2007
A book review by Danny Yee © 2010 https://dannyreviews.com/
A Corner of a Foreign Field is an anthology of around one hundred poems of the First World War, presented alongside photographs.

The famous poets are well-represented: there are seven poems by Siegfried Sassoon, six by Wilfrid Owen, three by Robert Graves, and so forth. But Waters also includes some soldiers' ballads, some poetry written before the war but linked to it — such as two poems from A.E. Housman's "A Shropshire Lad" — and poetry by women on the home front or in the ancillary services. The poets are mostly British, though there are several poems from Rhymes of a Lost Battalion Doughboy and other American sources, and one poem translated from each of the Arabic and German.

No context is provided for the poems or poets. That's fine for the better known poets, but with others some kind of background would have been helpful. I can guess from the photographs accompanying her poem "The V.A.D. Scullery-Maid's Song" that "M. Winifred Wedgwood" was a nurse, for example, but what part did "Mikhail Naimy" — presumably the Lebanese poet — play in the war, and why is there a token German poem?

The photographs are taken from the Daily Mail archives and provide a concrete visual complement to the abstraction of the poetry. Most illustrate life in the trenches, or behind them, or in action, but some depict munitions workers or other aspects of home front life, again emphasizing women. The photographs and the inclusion of some less well-known poets make Corner of a Foreign Field a useful addition to the existing anthologies of First World War poetry.

February 2010

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%T A Corner of a Foreign Field
%S The Illustrated Poetry of the First World War
%E Waters, Fiona
%I Transatlantic Press
%D 2007
%O hardcover
%G ISBN 0954526783
%P 192pp