Fighting World War One with Words and Metaphors

During World War One, when imagery was less prevalent as it is nowadays, thousands of young men in uniform took to writing poetry about what they were going through. Trying to deal with the horror and mystery of war, they expressed extreme emotions at the very edge of experience. As such the young soldier-poets of the First World War established war poetry as a literary genre. Some of their writings are among the defining texts of Twentieth-Century Europe.
But war poetry was not only written by active combatants. Many ‘civilians’ caught up in conflict tried to face the difficult circumstances in poetic ways as well. Like the soldiers, they captured the major and radical changes in their daily life in words.

For the WW1 Poetry Run, we have selected a large number of poetic manuscripts from all over Europe. From hastily scribbled rhymes about funny situations to complete series of sonnets pondering the very large questions of life, these texts approach identity, innocence, guilt, loyalty, courage, compassion, humanity, duty, desire, and death. Some deal with immediate personal experience, others with moments of national and international crisis.

You can now help disclose these personal expressions of human consciousness and conscience and submerge yourselves in worlds full of awe, dread, wonder, marvel, sorrow, and joy.

The Run is not a separate competition, but a regularly-updated selection of documents, hand-picked to open up your poetic veins on the Transcribathon. It is part of a bigger effort of Europeana to highlight European treasures of textual sources through the #AllezLiterature campaign led online and on social media.  #AllezLiterature was introduced on Valentine’s Day with the Love Letter Run (#WW1LoveLetters), which focuses on love letters, and is still happening.


The WW1 Poetry Run officially kicks off on World Poetry Day 2017 (21 March) and will be ongoing.
Spread the word on social media with the hashtag #WW1Poetry



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