Wilfred Owen (1893-1918) is widely recognised as one of the greatest voices of the First World War. He was born in Oswestry, and brought up in Birkenhead and Shrewsbury. Although he spent only a few years of his life here in Oswestry, his family history goes back generations and his grandfather was once mayor of the town. Oswestry Visitor & Exhibition Centre has a permanent display of Wilfred Owen’s letters to his mother and visitors who want to know more about his life in the town can download the Wilfred Owen Town Trail which will show you places in his life.
His self-appointed task was to speak for the men in his care, to show the ‘Pity of War’. Owen’s enduring and influential poetry is evidence of his bleak realism, his energy and indignation, his compassion and his great technical skill.
At the time of his death he was virtually unknown – only four of his poems were published during his lifetime – but he had always been determined to be a poet, and had experimented with verse from an early age. In 1913-1915, whilst teaching at Bordeaux and Bagnères-de-Bigorre in France, he worked on the rhyming patterns which became characteristic of his poetry; but it was not until the summer of 1917 that he found his true voice.
Virtually all the poems for which he is now remembered were written in a creative burst between August 1917 and September 1918. His self-appointed task was to speak for the men in his care, to show the ‘Pity of War’, which he also expressed in vivid letters home. His bleak realism, his energy and indignation, his compassion and his great technical skill are evident in many well-known poems, and phrases or lines from his work (“Each slow dusk a drawing-down of blinds” … “The Old Lie: Dulce et decorum est …” ) are frequently quoted.