Drawing up the lines of battle

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The Independent Culture
Anyone who stubbornly continues to read books these days would be forgiven for thinking that TV's encroachment upon literary territory is wholly invidious. All that dumb, irradiating Cyclops has to offer is the occasional trendy oafishness of Late Review, or the screaming inanity of Bookworm and You're Booked!. Yet tucked away in today's education schedule is English File: Poetry of War (11.30am BBC2), a remarkably adventurous presentation of the poems which emerged from the Great War.

Newsreel footage of trench warfare and a vivid commentary help to provide students with a smattering of context for the verse they are being fed; while dramatic scenes have actors impersonating officer-poets and nurses.

The poems themselves are read over scenes of bards in trenches or propped up in hospital beds. The only flaw is that we don't see the poems as we hear them - poetry is about form as well as content, and matters of structure are lost.

There is one particularly effective dramatisation of Wilfrid Owen's "Strange Meeting" ("I am the enemy you killed, my friend..."), which vindicates the entire project even to this Luddite. Programmes later in this English File series include "Poetry of Love" (hosted by Lily Savage), and "Poetry of the Environment" (yeah, all right, it is a bit ecchy).

Wouldn't it be rather nice if poetry were the new poetry after all?

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