I was delighted, if that’s the right word, to see Carol Rumen’s analysis of Strange Meeting in today’s Guardian.
Like one of the commentators below the article, I too grew up during the Troubles and was educated in a convent school. I have blogged elsewhere about the inimitable Miss Reihill, who taught me English for O’level, and thereby introduced me to Wilfred Owen in that treasure-chest of English Poetry, A Choice of Poetry.
However, like many adolescents, it was Owen who grabbed my attention. His work led to an obsession with both the Great War and the Second World War for some years. Perhaps those events felt like a safer way to grapple internally with the horrors of conflict than the low-grade war that I was actually living in the middle of.
Similarly to that commentator, I too knew Strange Meeting by heart; in fact, with very little prompting I still do. I recognise, as discussed by Rumen, that it is flawed; however its very flaws are part of its beauty. This article sent me off on a hunt to find my copy of ‘A choice of poets’, where I first encountered it. When I did, I chuckled at the scribbling that decorates most of the white space around it. While I was clearly an inveterate scribbler of notes, it’s not a surprise to me that this poem has been annotated intensely. I was clearly enthralled. I still am. It is such an important poem and at this time, with yet another tragic European war underway, it seems heartbreaking apt for the times. It’s also heartbreaking, as I noted above, (and I’ve no reason to doubt Miss Reihill’s word), that it was Owen’s last.