How far do you agree with Yeats' criticism that Owen's poetry is "all blood, dirt & sucked sugar stick"?


Wilfred Owen

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William Bultler Yeats, in criticizing Wilifred Owen, and in omitting many of the well-known first world war poets from The Oxford Book of Modern Verse, 1892-1935, which he edited, was taking a somewhat controversial stance, which ran counter to the general popular reception of the poets. He reasons for this are best expressed in his "On Being Asked for a War Poem" in which he comments "I think it better that in times like these/A poet's mouth be silent, for in truth/ We have no gift to set a statesman right; …" Yeats had a similar ambiguity in his relationship with Irish issues.

In one way, Yeats' point is valid, in that much of our sympathetic response to Owen's poetry comes not from its literary value or poetic sublimity, but merely for the graphic detail with which he narrates trench warfare; no poems of his on other subjects are particularly significant. On the other hand, Owen's did uniquely communicate a certain vision of war. Thus I would say Yeats was partially but not completely right.


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