Friday 31 July 2020
A five-part radio series featuring the work of the Veterans' Poetry Workshop at Oxford Brookes University will feature on the British Forces Broadcasting Service (BFBS) from Monday 3 August - Friday 7 August at 10.30 am daily.
The Veterans’ Poetry Workshop was created by the Oxford Brookes Poetry Centre in 2018 to give a richer picture of the lives of serving personnel and veterans.
A range of themes are explored in the workshops, including how far war poetry represents military service, how poetry can help to bridge the military/civilian divide and the role that poetry can play in post-war commemorative events.
Dr Niall Munro, Director of the Poetry Centre, commented on the series of broadcasts: “I am delighted that the work of the veterans can be appreciated by ever-increasing audiences. The broadcast of their poetry on BFBS is an important landmark along their journey as poets, no matter where they started from. I hope this will serve to give a better understanding of their lives and experiences.”
Dr Munro developed the workshops with other academics from Oxford Brookes University, namely Dr Jane Potter, an expert on First World War poetry; poet and PhD researcher Susie Campbell; and Dr Rita Phillips, who has studied public perceptions of veterans in the UK and the US. Together, they developed workshops for 10 UK and US military veterans and a widow of a veteran, between March 2019 and March 2020. The workshops had an international dimension, held in collaboration with Blesma (the UK charity for disabled veterans), New York University Veterans’ Writing Workshop and the Joiner Institute in Boston, USA.
The veterans explored the work of writers of the past, which led to them expressing their own, sometimes difficult, experiences. The workshops were managed sensitively, mindful of participants who had suffered from PTSD. The main aim was to help them hone their poetic craft as serious writers, whatever stage they had reached in their development.
Many of the veterans are women, one of whom commented that delving into the work of female writers: “opened up a whole new world of poetry for me and showed me a tradition”. Another explained how the workshop helped them create poetry that “encapsulated a lot of the different images that I was still carrying from war and what I was trying to say with them”.
The work that resulted from the workshops has been collected in an e-book anthology called ‘My teeth don’t chew on shrapnel’: an anthology of poems by military veterans (Oxford Brookes Poetry Centre, 2020). This also includes essays about the veteran experience and writing prompts by Susie Campbell for anyone interested in developing their own writing. It is free to download from the Poetry Centre website
You can listen to the veterans’ poetry on the Totally Connected show on British Forces Broadcasting Service (BFBS) from Monday 3 August - Friday 7 August at 10.30 am daily.