Robbie’s Inspiration – Book review: War poetry, Sheep on the Somme: A World War I Picture and Poetry Book by Frank Prem

In honour of Remembrance Day, I am sharing my review of this incredible book of poetry by Frank Prem about WW1.

What Amazon says

In this Picture Poetry collection, journey with the AIF, the ANZACS and the German and French armies at war on the Western Front during the Great War of 1914 – 1918.

Have your photo taken in a studio in Cairo, and your heart broken on a small street in Ballarat.

The bombs are falling in an endless fusillade of artillery fire from both sides of the conflict, turning the Somme into a clagging stew of slurried mud and maddened men.

Frank Prem has taken images of men at war and created verse stories to accompany them and to tell you that this war is hell.

Welcome. Welcome to the Somme.

My review

I am endlessly fascinated by war books and war poetry, especially about WW1 which seems to have been one of the most dreadful and destructive of all human conflicts I know about. The idea of millions of young men, the age of my oldest son, and maybe even my younger son, living in the squalor and horror of the trenches with death all around them is overwhelmingly dreadful. I keep wondering how the world ended up embroiled in the dead end and destructive war that continued for four years and destroyed the lives of an entire generation, male and female.

Frank Prem’s book is a beautiful and graphic tribute to all those brave men and women who gave their lives for their countries between 1914 and 1918. The poet has taken a selection of black and white photographs from the war archives and matched them to well chosen and vivid words about life and death during this time.

All the poems in this collection are powerful and worthy, but these two extracts are from the ones that have remained in my thoughts and heart:

“hush

be quiet now

don’t…

do not speak
a word

if we
lay still
enough

they may not
see us

hear us

they many not
find us

oh
let them leave us
I have had
enough”
from Hush

“and I
who wish
only
to sleep

I who would
the darkness
pray
take him

take him to
some other place

take him away

am doomed
to watch
the night at play

doomed to hear
the whistling
song

to sing it
like a mantra playing
oh god”
From another night (like this)

I purchased a paperback version of this book because I regard it as a collectors item along with my poetry collections by Siegfried Sassoon, Wilfred Owen, and Rupert Brooke.

Purchase Sheep on the Somme: A World War I Picture and Poetry Book

Amazon US

Frank Prem’s Amazon author page

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90 thoughts on “Robbie’s Inspiration – Book review: War poetry, Sheep on the Somme: A World War I Picture and Poetry Book by Frank Prem

  1. I am familiar with Frank Prem as a poet, who ranks alongside Siegfried Sassoon and Rupert Brooke as poets I introduced to my students in my English literature classes. This day is a perfect time to feature his poetry. Thank you, Robbie!

    Liked by 2 people

  2. I have been trying to wrap my brain round understanding WW1 for years, from school to university, reading, visiting the Western Front several times – and am still failing. The book sounds interesting, but the evocative nature of Sassoon, Owen, Brooke, Binyon, McCrae, Sorley and all the rest…well…

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Such an amazing review Robbie. Franks words are felt under the skin through the surface to our internal core, shaking the insides. I for one avoided hearing of the bloodshed but how can one avoid such reality that never goes away.
    Congratulations Frank! Love your poem and these words are etched now permanently!
    “to sing it
    like a mantra playing
    oh god”
    From another night (like this)”

    Liked by 2 people

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