Simon Armitage – The Great War: An Elegy

Simon Armitage talked about his commission from the BBC, in composing seven poems to commemorate the 700,000 men who died during WW1.

He took an alternative approach, by exploring the lives of ordinary people and how they were affected by the war. He also stressed that he wanted to find a way to elegise them, in case these kind of experiences should disappear from memory. One of the most poignant was that of nurse Edith (Edie) Appleton, who kept meticulous diaries of her experiences of nursing soldiers who had been injured on the battlefield. One element that struck him was how she sought solace in the coast, away from the battlefield on her days off, and often swam in the sea, as if to wash away the experience.

He read some of his poems, and some were shown on excerpts from a film he’s made which will be shown in the Autumn on BBC two. Sea Sketch, Remains, Lazarus, In Avondale, The Thankful, Considering the Poppy, Memorial took us on a journey of different experiences of various ‘ordinary people’ who had extraordinary tales to tell, reminding us how far removed we are today in the 21st century western world. When asked by an audience member if he had felt anger when he was writing, he answered no, he just felt a tremendous sadness. Armitage also added that he didn’t feel that he had the authority to feel that emotion, unlike the war poets such as Sassoon and Owen.

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