Blog Our Sweet Old Etcetera

Behind the scenes at the Scottish Poetry Library

The Thursday Post: When Wilfred Met Siegfried

Image: David Clarke, playing Wilfred Owen, in Edinburgh 2017 by Alan Shedlock
Image: David Clarke, playing Wilfred Owen, in Edinburgh 2017 by Alan Shedlock

A series of special events marking the 100th anniversary of the meeting of war poets Wilfred Owen and Siegfried Sassoon takes place next week in Edinburgh, starting on 15 August.

With no record of the exact date Owen and Sassoon met – biographers agree it took place between 15 and 19 August, 1917 at Craiglockhart – Wilfred Owen’s Edinburgh 1917-2017 is pleased to declare a week’s worth of celebrations and commemorations. Events include the premiere of a new poem about Owen and Sassoon by National Poet for Scotland Jackie Kay, a screening of the WW1 film Regeneration, live music, readings and lectures. A complete list of events can be read at the bottom of the page. The events are co-ordinated by Wilfred Owen’s Edinburgh 1917-2017, a committee of education, arts and veterans organisations commemorating Owen’s time in Edinburgh

Suffering from shell shock after experiencing combat in France, Wilfred Owen was sent to Edinburgh to recover at Craiglockhart War Hospital in June, 1917. In August, he met fellow patient and poet Siegfried Sassoon. Sassoon encouraged Owen to write about the trenches, and, under his mentorship, wrote two of his greatest poems at Craiglockhart, ‘Dulce et Decorum Est’ and ‘Anthem for Doomed Youth’. Owen’s time in the capital transformed him from a novice to the great poet of WW1 we remember today.

Jackie Kay, who will read her Owen – Sassoon poem at the Edinburgh International Book Festival on Wednesday, 16 August, says, ‘Had it not been for Craiglockart Hospital in Edinburgh, Siegfried Sassoon and Wilfred Owen might never have met. Had they not met, their poetry would not have been the same. I’m fascinated by their friendship that took place in the visionary hospital, and in turn how the hospital helped them deal with their visions. Our vision of the First World War, our intimate knowledge of it through them and others that they also influenced and inspired, is sharp because of their voices. They found a way to make their voices heard across time. I’m hoping in my poem about their friendship to pay homage to these men, brave in words, bold in rhyme.’

The week of events builds on the success of a re-enactment of Owen’s arrival at Waverley Station on June 26, when a Great War re-enactor playing Owen was met by Edinburgh’s Makar Christine De Luca, who welcomed him by reciting an Owen poem, and violinist Thoren Ferguson, who played the Wilfred Owen Violin. The re-enactor was accompanied by Peter Owen, the poet’s nephew.

The commemoration has been organised by Wilfred Owen’s Edinburgh 1917-2017, a committee co-ordinating Owen-themed events held by wide range of organisations, including the Wilfred Owen Association, Edinburgh Napier University, military charity Glen Art, Poppy Scotland, the Filmhouse, the Edinburgh International Book Festival, The Royal Society of Edinburgh, the Scottish Poetry Library, WW100 The Scottish Commemorations Panel, and more.

Events co-ordinated by Wilfred Owen’s Edinburgh 1917-2017 include:

15 August – Neil McLennan, author of a forthcoming book about Owen’s time in Edinburgh, delivers a Royal Society of Edinburgh lecture at Craiglockhart Campus, Edinburgh Napier University.

16 August – premiere of Jackie Kay’s Owen – Sassoon poem at the EIBF.

17 August – W is for Wilfred Owen, an event combining a talk, Owen and Sassoon’s poetry, and music played on the Wilfred Owen violin, to be held at the City Art Centre.

17 August – screening of Regeneration at the Edinburgh Filmhouse.

18 August – When Wilfred Met Siegfried – the Wilfred Owen Association stage a reading of Owen and Sassoon’s poetry, diaries and letters, held at Craiglockhart Campus, Edinburgh Napier University.

Category: poets