Some World War I poems show an enemy soldier up close. This choice usually proves very effective for expressing the general irony of war, to be sure. However, I submit that showing interaction with the enemy also allows the speaker space to wrestle with internal conflict, guilt, or cognitive dissonance, and that it allows—or even forces—readers to participate in that struggle along with the speaker. While the poets’ writings no doubt had therapeutic effects for the poets themselves, I focus more on the literary effects, specifically arguing that the poems are powerful to us readers since they heighten the personal exposure of the poets’ psyches and since they make us share the dissonance as readers. I consider poems by Siegfried Sassoon, Wilfred Owen, Robert Graves, Ford Madox Ford, Herbert Read, and Robert Service.
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