What Are We Fighting For?
Brian Moses and Roger Stevens
London, Macmillan, 2014, 112p
Seeing as this year marks the centenary of The Great War, I am anticipating many publications to deal with this subject. What Are We Fighting For is the first I have come across: a varied, original collection of poems written and collated by Brian Moses and Roger Stevens.
At first, I thought this collection would be an anthology of existing poems, and was disappointed to find that it was in fact some new poems written by contemporary poets. I felt a little concerned that they had no authority on the subject and that the writing would be idealised or exaggerated.
But I was pleasantly surprised to find poetry that covered a variety of subjects in a factual and informative way. The collection felt a little like a history book, giving information about life in the trenches, the causes of conflict, and what things were like for those people left at home. Some of the poems are supported with snippets of factual information, explaining what realities the stories relate to. And each poem is just that - a little story about a person or a place or an event, taken from history and embelleshed in a more accessible manner.
This book contains poems about all conflict - from the First and Second World War, right through to modern day conflicts. The final section seems more childlike and innocent, exploring the world through the eyes of young characters who do not see war in their back garden, but are sometimes vaguely aware of world news and battles fought overseas. There is even a poem about a playground fight, as Moses and Stevens cast doubt on conflict at all levels.
So despite not meeting my initial expectations, I found this collection of new poems to be touching, leaving the reader with food for thought; though I expect there to be a lot more high quality writing on this subject to be revealed over the next few years.