WW1 Remembrance Poetry – The German School

Remembrance poetry logo

In October 2014, pupils from The German School in Richmond visited the Richmond at Home and at War exhibition. They had a chance to explore some of the original archive resources used to develop the exhibition, and to examine real and replica objects from the First World War.

For anyone studying the war, the poetry produced by men and women on both sides of the conflict offer significant insights into the human experience, helping us understand the impacts of the war on a personal level. And 100 years on, writers are still producing poetry to try and make sense of a conflict that moves and challenges us in equal measure.

In short 15-minute Poetry Bursts, we worked with our young visitors to write some lines of poetry in response to objects they’d examined. We brain-stormed words, free associating ideas, then working these up into short poems.

We were so impressed with the way the pupils engaged with the objects and responded to the stories they represented. If this is what they can do in 15 minutes, we hope they will continue to develop their creative writing back at school!

Athena Browning, Year 8

I hold a whole life story
wrapped in my soft beige skin
A story of blood and loss and
grieving kin

[in response to an army kit roll]

hand-written draft of Wilfred Owen's poetry

Draft of Wilfred Owen’s famous poem, Dulce et Decorum est.

Marco Micozzi

he puts me on his head
and I can hear him breathe.
I feel the stinging chlorine
slowly burning away his skin.
We both close our eyes
and fall to the deadly,
tough ground.

[in response to a gas hood]

Sophia O’Brien, Year 8

I hold on, pretend I’ve gone,
Away from here, gone
Gone home.
I hold on to the moment.
This is all I have to keep me sane.
The last that’s truly mine.
It feels soft in my hands
Though we are covered in blood,
Keep clean and try to keep sane.

[in response to a kit roll]

Willem Oldenkott

I have seen many things, and saved many lives
I have done many things, to lessen the crying wives
Gas is my enemy, it tortures and kills
And I keep it from men, I do it at their will
I am a gas-mask, I save the blood of pure
I am a gas-mask, I am war!

[in response to a gas hood]

Leo Alexander Zupan, Year 8

Sitting there, in darkness
Laying there ready to be fired
Who’s next? Who’s heart will fail under my might?
Yet months I lay, lying untouched
Rumours spreading of them, who’ve been fired up
Suddenly light appears from above
My friends and I are fed into a cartridge
Before I know, I’m blasted out
The eyes ahead, wiped from life
I fall with flesh
The beating falls silent
No life is left
Reality is theft.

[in response to a bullet]

Kara Quast

I am

I am a plug,
fitting perfectly into my socket.

I am the earth,
stuck in slow rotation.

I am a child,
speeding down a slide after a big push.

I am a bird,
soaring through the polluted air.

I am a wolf,
hunting with my pack.

I am a murderer,
searching for a life to take.

I am a bullet,
tearing through flesh and bone.

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