Robert Graves: War Poems is a significant publishing event, the first book that draws together all of Robert Graves’s poems about the Great War, including for the first time the whole of The Patchwork Flag, the collection that Graves planned in 1918 but never published. The book includes poems written while Graves was on active service on the Western Front, and many written in the years that followed, revealing his changing perspectives on the First World War and other contemporary and historical conflicts. Graves’s is an authentic voice: his war experiences included fighting in the Battle of Loos and the Battle of the Somme, guiding his work towards a realism not previously seen in poetry of the time.
War Poems consists of Graves’s first two major published volumes: Over the Brazier (1916) and Fairies and Fusiliers (1917), which incorporates poems from the privately-printed pamphlet Goliath and David (1916). During the war Graves completed a third major collection of poems, to be called ‘The Patchwork Flag’, but which was never published as a whole. For many years the typescript has lain in the Berg Collection, New York Public Library, and now appears, excitingly, almost a century after composition, an unexpected addition to the canon of First World War poetry.
Graves’s poems are accompanied by editor Charles Mundye’s Introduction, which examines a number of the poems in their biographical and historical context, and explores Graves’s personal and professional relationships with other writers including Siegfried Sassoon and Wilfred Owen. There are also explanatory notes which explore specific biographical, cultural, military and historical contexts, and provide a sense of publishing history. The poems are published in their first edition, first impression form, a return to first principles also recently adopted in the new Penguin edition of Good-bye to All That, Graves’s 1929 classic war memoir, now a companion text to the War Poems.