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War Poets and the five senses.


Anthem for Doomed Youth fully utilizes sound, though the language Owen uses is simple and poignant. “stuttering rifles’ rapid rattle” “shrill, demented choirs of wailing shells” these quotes, when read, immediately evoke the sounds of artillery and gunfire, common sounds in the Great War. Owen utilizes this to give the sense of overbearing, foundation shaking explosions and to give the reader an auditory feeling of being In the trenches. Arbitrary and abstract Ideas expressed In this way become very real when reading them out loud to yourself.

Smell is perhaps the most primal of all the five senses. Though imagery and sound are used most often in film and other media, smell is forgotten. However, smell is one of the most powerful of all the senses in its ability to affect the reader. Who has ever ergot the stench of rotting meat, or of gunpowder. Siegfried Season’s “the rank of smell poets can access the deeper parts of the human psyche, and instill deep emotions in the reader without the reader even realizing it.

Owen and Swanson knew this and both utilize it often in their poetry. Relating to the topic, tangible means to be perceptible by the senses; Earlier on in the evolutionary sense we evolved from animals whose primary sense was smell, and to become tangible, an abstract issue must affect the primary or base emotions. Smell is the most effective in this. Taste is lesser known in poetry because it is so difficult to adequately describe, though Owen tries in Dulcet Et. Obscene as cancer, bitter as the cud of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues” Taste is perhaps the most difficult of the senses to accurately describe, thus is also harder to use to make abstract ideas less so. Touch is one of the most effective senses a poet can manipulate to make abstract ideas more tangible. Through invoking the sense of touch, a poet can stir the reader to easily imagine what the poet wants. Most of all in war poetry, touch is embodied in he sense of pain, for war is the cause of more pain than anything else.

Wilfred Owens poetry almost always speaks of pain, death and suffering, and indeed this is true in almost all war poetry. Everyone has experienced physical pain at some stage in their life thus the usage of pain in poetry is always going to affect the reader, for every reader understands pain. Pain is perhaps the primary feeling during wartime. Emotional or physical, none leave the trenches without experiencing it and by using it in poetry, the reader understands with perfect clarity what the poet is describing, just by imagining their own pain.

The five senses are the most important things in poetry, for while an abstract idea may be perfect in it’s conception and tone, it cannot truly speak to a reader without allowing the reader to feel the poetic message in a more primal way. Wilfred Owen and Siegfried Swanson surely understood this as the senses are strong components of their respective works. This allows their poetry to speak to any reader, and explains their huge popularity among the poetic world. The five senses are difficult to describe and harder to use, but without them abstract issues such as in “Dulcet Et Decorum Est’ would be difficult indeed to appreciate.