What kind of influence did Wilfred Owen have on later poets?
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Much has been written about the influence of other poets (such as Shelley, Keats, and Sassoon) on the poetry of Wilfred Owen, but much less has been written about Owen’s influence on the poets who followed him. A book on this subject does exist – Wilfred Owen’s Influence on Three Generations of Poets, by Sasi Bhusan Das – but that book is difficult to trace and is not widely available.
Nevertheless, the influence of Owen can be charted to some degree. Perhaps the most negative example of such influence involved W. B. Yeats, the great Irish poet who excluded Owen’s work altogether from the edition he prepared of the Oxford Book of Modern Verse. Yeats felt contempt for Owen’s poetry, and so one might say that his own work was influenced by a desire not to write like Owen, whom he considered too sentimental. Yeats’ negative response to Owen is discussed, for instance, in an essay by P. P. Reveendran, who believes that political differences help to account for Yeats’s dislike of Owen’s works.
A more positive example of Owen’s influence is discussed by Edwina Burness, who hears echoes from one of Owen’s poems in a poem by Robert Service. In addition, A. Bannerjee has claimed that Owen
can also claim to have influenced later poets (e.g. C. Day Lewis held Owen up as one of the literary ancestors of the poets of the thirties in his A Hope For Poetry (1934), and Philip Larkin has mentioned Owen as one of the poets he has, “enjoyed” and he has been “associated with”).
Larkin, in fact, wrote several appreciative essays about Owen, and it is Larkin’s works, especially, that one might profitably look for Owen’s influence on a later major poet. Both men wrote in a clear, crisp, colloquial, and vernacular style, and both wrote realistically about the realities of life (and death). Neither – despite Yeats’ claim) was a sentimentalist. Both wrote poetry that can be (and is) read and admired by many people who care very little for poetry in general.
Banerjee, A. "Wilfred Owen-A Reassessment." The Literary Half-Yearly 18.2 (1977): 85-100. Rpt. in Poetry Criticism. Ed. Carol T. Gaffke. Vol. 19. Detroit: Gale Research, 1997. Literature Resource Center. Web. 8 Feb. 2012.
Burness, Edwina. "Service's 'Bonehead Bill' and Owen's 'Strange Meeting.'." Explicator 43.3 (Spring 1985): 24-26. Rpt. in Poetry Criticism. Ed. Michelle Lee. Vol. 70. Detroit: Gale, 2006.Literature Resource Center. Web. 8 Feb. 2012.
Raveendran, P. P. "Poetry and Politics: The Case of Yeats and Owen." Literary Criterion 23.4 (1988): 27-35. Rpt. in Poetry Criticism. Ed. Michelle Lee. Vol. 102. Detroit: Gale, 2010.Literature Resource Center. Web. 8 Feb. 2012.
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