Anxiety of Influence
I was 17 when, blessed suddenly with gold,
I happened in the sixth form library
on Blunden’s Poems of Wilfred Owen.
He had sat in this self-same dormitory,
engulfed in the same masturbatory rebellions,
the same teen-age passion
for Keats, the same hatred of Birkenhead
Institute for the Sons of Artisans.
What did I learn? That one of the names
on the school’s War Memorial, poppied annually
to reproach us, had a voice.
That technique is subliminal, a device
of rhetoric, his half rhymes echoing
shell shock. That poetry doesn’t flinch.
That it matters by calling poetry
into question. That he made pity heroic.