Thursday 4 March 2010

Wyeth Redivivus

During his lifetime, John Allan Wyeth (1894-1981) won a minor reputation as a painter. As the obituary in the Trenton Times perfunctorily put it, he was a 'noted area artist'. The newspaper can be forgiven for making no mention of Wyeth's poetry: even his close family had no idea that he had published a book of poems, This Man's Army, in 1928. Wyeth is now starting to be recognised as the most important American soldier-poet of the Great War, thanks mainly to the good offices of BJ Omanson and Dana Gioia.

To read some of his poems, see the link above, and here. Gioia's essays are here and here. Here is a good blog post by David Laskin. For insights from yours truly, try these: French brothels, speech rhythms, German POWs. BJ Omanson explains here how he stumbled across Wyeth's work and brought it to prominence.

At last the Americans have found a soldier-poet of the Great War who is strong enough to be ranked alongside the best of the Brits. Whether the attention to Wyeth will peter out, or develop into sustained scholarship, remains to be seen.

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