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Simon Armitage’s elegy for the Great War

That's How The Light Gets In

The poppy

The poppy which Joseph Shaddick sent home

In these centennial days, evocations of the First World War in newspaper articles or TV and radio programmes can seem to follow familiar and well-worn paths.  But in this week’s Culture Show special on BBC 2, Simon Armitage came up with a commemoration that felt entirely original: his own poetic commentary on the war, using as his inspiration the stories of people whose lives were either ended or profoundly changed by it.  In The Great War: An Elegy, Armitage told seven unusual stories, closing each one with a new poem inspired by it.

Introducing the film, Armitage said:

A century ago this year, the First World War began. The Great War – but great only in its scale of catastrophe. Well over 700,000 British soldiers died in the bloodbath that followed. I don’t have a head for numbers – that statistic is incomprehensible. It’s about human beings – people who…

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