Thursday, 6 October 2016

National Poetry Day at the History Centre!

Inspired by our collections whilst preparing for a talk, I thought the History Centre should contribute a little something towards National Poetry Day on the 6th October.

Hull has had a strong association with poetry down the years. Home grown talent famously includes the seventeenth century poet Andrew Marvell, author of ‘To His Coy Mistress’ which many of us will have studied at school. A twentieth century example can be found in Stevie Smith, noted for her illustrative talents as well as her poetic ones. 

Perhaps though, Hull is better known as a city that becomes a home to poets from elsewhere, attracting them in and holding them captive (in a poetic rather than illegal way). In this category we have the likes of Douglas Dunn, Sean O’Brien, Peter Didsbury, Andrew Motion and, of course, Philip Larkin.

But this blog is not another exhibition of worthies with Larkin as the star…. Instead, I want to highlight one of the unsung gems we hold here at the History Centre.

Amongst the papers of the Forbes-Adams family held in the University Archives, there is a fantastic series of letters sent by WWI British soldiers who, having been sent home as invalids, were being cared for at Lady Lytton’s Hospital, Charles Street, Berkeley Square, London [reference number U DDFA3/6/32]. 

Hidden amongst the letters is an inconspicuous looking scrap of lined paper. But on this scrap is a remarkable snapshot of trench life captured in poetry. We know very little about the poet. We have no name, no age, we don’t even know the exact date of the poem, other than to say it was written sometime between 1915 and 1920.

Whilst many might not consider it to be poetry of the highest calibre, it succeeded in both amusing me and provoking thought about the conditions associated with life in the trenches during WWI. Read it for yourself, what does it make you feel…  

Poem entitled 'My little wet home in the Trench' [U DDFA3/6/32/126]

Claire Weatherall, Assistant Archivist HUA

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