Wilfred Owen

Selected Poems

“My subject is War, and the pity of War. The Poetry is in the pity.”

One of the Great War poets, Wilfred Owen (1893-1918), was instrumental in developing poetry as a truthful witness to atrocity. His famous line “poetry is in the pity” exemplified his belief that poetry must portray horrors, the inhumanity, the pathos of war.

Like many British youths, Owen was called to war and drew strength knowing he was perpetuating the poetic language of Keats. Owen observes and renders both intimate and landscape shots of the war. From the cramped and lonely trenches to the unflinching freedom from compassion one must seek in order to kill, and die.

Human consciousness lingers throughout this collection; do we know what war means, what it exacts from us, and what we extinguish in death.

Owens died in action at age 25 and only saw five poems published. Among his poems, “Dulce et Decorum Est,” “Anthem for Doomed Youth,” he left a legacy of poetry as witness.

Elie Wiesel believed a witness carries the past into the future. Read more on the role and burden of witness in Wiesel’s Night or Douglas Adam’s gathering of endangered creatures.