Never has the link between environment and poetry been starker than with poetry written during the First World War. And nowhere in poetry is an understanding of the poet’s work more readily enhanced by visiting the location that stimulated the poets to write.
Students are able to grasp the impact of the war on poets who served in Europe because there has been a deliberate policy of maintaining some of the environment relating to such events as the Battle of the Somme.
Thus students can see trenches, shell impact craters, and, of course, the cemeteries – perhaps the most moving experience of all.
This allows them to explore the two vital issues that lie within all poetry: the text itself and the context of the writing.
From Rupert Brooke to Wilfred Owen, from Edward Thomas (writing, of course, before he went to France) to reading A. E. Housman’s “Here dead we lie”, this is beyond question the most insightful and moving poetry study trip that exists.
Such a visit can also take in the Flanders Fields Museum in Ypres where the very name of the museum is taken from John McCrae’s poem.
But, of course, it is the emotion that is at the heart of this experience, emotions that come not only from the poems but also from the students standing at the Menin Gate Memorial to the Missing listening to the last post being played, contemplating what happened in these fields.
It is perhaps the most powerful way of helping the students to understand the emotions of and the background to the poetry that they are studying.
And that is especially so at this site which commemorates the British and Commonwealth soldiers who were killed in action, but whose families have never had a grave at which to pay their respects and honour the fact that these young men gave their lives for their country.
For similar reasons you may choose to visit the grave of Edward Thomas. Thomas was conscripted into the Artist’s Rifles and was killed on the first day of the Battle of Arras and never saw his poems published under his own name. He died undoubtedly still thinking of the English countryside that he described in his poetry.
You may also wish to visit the graves of Wilfred Owen and Roland Leighton and visit Ovillers-la-Boiselle and the Lochnagar Crater where Ivor Gurney fought. Each has its own story, its own poignancy; each expresses so deeply what the War Poets experienced.
There are more suggested venues on our website – but as always we can, of course, create a trip around specific sites and locations that you wish to visit.
A sample visit can be found on our website, but do remember that tours can be arranged to suit your student’s specific needs and your specific interests.
Please do not hesitate to contact me on 0845 026 4661 or ABarnett@studytripc.co.uk to discuss your ideas.
We look forward to giving your students an unforgettable experience.
Wishing you a well-earned Easter break.