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Two popular and long-established collections of  war poetry of the
First World War

Minds at War
A comprehensive
anthology of poetry of the First World War. All the greatest war poems of Wilfred Owen and Siegfried Sassoon and war poems of over 70 other notable poets. All set in the context of the poets' lives and historical records. With historic photographs and cartoons.  Edited by David Roberts.
 400 pages £15-99 (UK)

Out in the Dark
Anthology of
First World War poetry recommended for students and the general reader.
19 poems by
Wilfred Owen
, 27 by Siegfried Sassoon and over 90 more war poems by 45 significant poets including women writers. Contextual information and basic notes on many poems. Illustrated.  Edited by David Roberts.
185 pages - £10-99 (UK)

Falklands War Poetry cover

Northern Ireland War Poetry


War poetry from Northern Ireland

Belfasts child  -  A poem by Emma Wilson

Poems by Catherine Brogan.

These poems are about a war that isn't usually called a war. Most often the violence between Protestants and Catholics and the British Army and British government is referred to as "the troubles".

Catherine Brogan, poems and video

Catherine Brogan is a performance poet from Omagh, Northern Ireland who now lives in London. She was born in 1985. Her performance poetry includes a number of poems that reflect on the violence in Northern Ireland which is variously referred to as a conflict, a war or most often as "the troubles."

Catherine Brogan's performance poetry

Catherine Brogan's poetry is strikingly different in style from most of the poetry on this website. It was written to be declaimed to an audience. One of the aims of a performance poet is to grab the attention of the audience and keep it awake and stimulated by a vivid verbal display. 
In Catherine Brogan's case her torrent of words sometimes leads her to bash words into her lines in a manner that may startle the sophisticated and sheltered reader. Not for Catherine the soothing sonnet. Readers may sometimes be shocked or jolted by what they read. It was never intended for close analysis as written word.

You can see and hear her in action in our videos that will be added to the war poetry website before the end of November.

David Roberts, Editor, The War Poetry website, 17 November 2010

The Omagh-ah
Cat Calls
Conspiracy Theory
The Chambers Dictionary (2006 ed.) definition of Irish
Abandoned Empire
Shan's Poem
Video Performance of Omagh-ah

The Omagh-ah

It didnít happen to me,
It happened on TV,
To friends Iíd see,
It didnít happen to me,
I heard the bomb blast
Watched the newscast,
Couldnít ring on the phone
But I never put it in a poem,
Cause it wasnít personal,
People had come out worse and all
Spent the following week in Donegal,
Family holiday, aged thirteen
Wondering what did it mean
But not connected,
Not properly affected,
Just happened to stay
A mile and a half away
From the single greatest loss of life
In 29 years of strife
29 dead, hundreds wounded.
No one knew what it meant
Weí had the Belfast agreement,
It was over, we were told,
Bombs weíre always cold,
Mostly they were hoaxes,
Called in from phone boxes.
We got plenty of them,
For years after the mayhem.

Caused water in my dadís eye
Though that wasnít his style
He helped at the leisure centre
Where they told the relatives to gather
Didnít come back till morning,
Hugged him while yawning.
Then came the TV crews
Any channel you choose
We were on their news,
For way longer than Rebecca Loos
And its still a big story
Still causes a furore
Still nobody caught
The civil case was fought, Lost,
Then won, at a great deal of cost
Its ten years from the day
And it still hasnít gone away,
No matter how much I stay
It didnít happen to me anyway
It happened on TV
To friends Iíd see,
Didnít happen to me.
People still ask me who planted it
Lets be honest
I havenít the foggiest
If it was the Real IRA
The 32 country IRA
The continuity IRA
Or the INLA, it just wasnít OK
And it was worse than that.
So in came the diplomat
Tony Blair, wife Cherie,
All came flocking finally,
In came Boyzone and the Queen
Its was the only big gig weíd ever seen.
Machester, Chelsea, all had a play
Omagh FC is closed today
Corruption made them fold,
Or so Iím told.

Still get the Omagh ahhhh
The where you from? Omagh Ė ahhh
They feel sorry for me
They donít see,
It didnít happen to me
Happened on TV
To friends Iíd see,
Didn't happen to me.
Happened to my brotherís friendís mum
To my classmate's mum
But my mum never lost a son
Just carried on with what had to be done
It wasn't a war that could be won
And people ask me what it was like
Well I was never scared at night
Do Londoners live in fear of a knife?
Guildford is more, than four,
Birmingham has a greater sum than six
Add Omagh to the mix
And itís just a bombing
A long drawn out sobbing
But to me its open, green
In the Countryside, barely a house to be seen
Where to be kind you be mean
And a good home is always clean.
But people forget,
At Uni, the friends my sister met
Didnít know Omagh should mean bedlam
They were only 11,
But people still remember,
Because of 30 seconds of moving picture,
But Omagh is more than this mess,
More than post-traumatic stress.

Catherine Brogan

To top of page

Cat Calls
And there they are the faces,
The last vestige and traces,
Of men/women brought asunder,
By all our foreign plunder.
All the Lance Corporals,
The private, soldier, trooper
18, 18, 18, 20, 26, 22, 28, 20, 24,
My age. Eyes fill with tear rage,
And I remember,
When I wore a uniform
And saw the boys born,
The same year as me,
Hiding behind a tree,
Staring through their sight,
Helmet pulled tight,
Crouched behind a wall,
Not issuing a cat call.

Catherine Brogan

To top of page

Conspiracy Theory
A training ground for the British Army
Sorry to alarm yeh,
But they called it The Troubles
Cause they never really, took it seriously.
It was just quite handy
To patrol in armoured Landy
Streets and fields
With guaranteed hot meals
A foreign hostile land
Without sun or sand
Not too far from England
Cut down on fuel cost
And what of lives lost
Sure they didnít give a toss.
They had this trick
Where theyíd take a mick
Up in a helicopter,
Blind fold the bugger,
Hover, lower
Then kick him out,
Laugh as heíd shout
Or white light, white noise
For the Long Kesh boys
Internment Ė where you have a stint
At her majestyís pleasure,
With no charge or jury to measure
The nature of your crime
Or length of your time.
They use the word
To hide the absurd
Internment Ė imprisonment
The Troubles - civil war
Plantation Ė occupation
People stripped of right
Forced from land and sight.
But back to living history
It really is no mystery
The Troubles helped the army
The little occupation,
Didnít cause a refugee situation
People ran away,
To see another day
On foreign building sites,
Or worked nights
In a cousins Irish pub
Found a way to slug
It out
This Northern Irish rout
People fled,
Saw loved ones shot dead
And among the troubled faces
The army built bases
Blocked roads, built watch towers
To watch the people cower
And when the IRA got real power
By bombing a Brighton hotel,
Making Thatcher see the hell,
She had unleashed,
On many a personís head,
Saw her own loved ones dead
So Maggie says,
I think it would be wise
To talk and compromise
And a quarter of a century later,
We still berate her
The hunger striker hater
And as we try and reason why
Too many people die
I say disband army
They have little sympathy
With the civilian population
They worsen a situation
We need an army of social workers
Physiatrists, physios, Doctors,
So take your 19 year old yob
And find him a better job
Train him in chemotherapy
Cause where Iím from cancer is the real enemy
The new land mine, death that takes time,
Killed slowly through neglect
And the politicians donít give a feck
Them ex-terrorists got paid off
While the alliance got laid off.
My mum marched for civil rights
Joined the peace people, stayed out of fights,
Now sheís rolling in pain
Because the healthcare provision is insane,
While the politicians are rolling in sterling
Guess it must dilute the all-Ireland yearning.

Catherine Brogan

To top of page

The Chambers Dictionary (2006 ed.) definition of Irish
Look me up in the dictionary
Its clearer than pictionary
That you think Iím self contradictory
Prone to trickery
It's there in black and white
That you think Iím shite
And an Irishism is a nonsensical idiom
That is a schism
In your sense of truth
That you hold aloof
And the bricks and mortar
That we throw at our torture
Is Irish confetti.
It's that petty
Not the way to fight
Your might,
So weíre coming back with words
Cause you made us fly like birds
Act like you never heard the dirge
That we sang to be free
Not to see what you preach to me
To find our own key
Now you bonnets got a bee
That we wont let it be
But we never had a hat we could tip like that
We just got spat at.
You gave me this tongue
So Iíll poke fun
At the cold hearted callous
The manipulative malice
The replacement of the phallus
With a chalice
Or a big bad gun
Iíd rather have a hun as a mum
Than carry on the work that English done.

Catherine Brogan

To top of page

Abandoned Empire
As a lad, my dad
Found a drummer boy's sword
In the Monk's well
Where the ancient abbey
Became the old jail
With the hexagonal house
Where the governor, surveyed
The prison's interior.
The courthouse's neo-classical; columns
A sandcastle in the doldrums
Sitting at the head of the town,
Casting a toothy frown,
The mental hospital,
Which we all call
The T and F
A sentence worse than death
The Tyrone and Fermanagh
The counties that neighbour
Bound together by vast grounds of grey
Where the crazies stay
No building in Omagh,
Is much older,
Than two hundred years,
And it's built on fears.
Her majesty's empire,
Furnished its neighbour,
With fine attire,
Of court house, jail house
Mad house, work house
Now a respite care home,
Old building's gone.
As a teenager,
Used to smoke up there.
Now closed,
The St. Lucia Barracks
Fended off attacks
Since 1870,
So my dad tells me
It takes up half the town,
Crosses the river,
The army are clearer,
Had there own life in there
Once played on their assault course
But my school had no cadet force
Or Duke of Edinburgh
For a Catholic girl.
Court house, jail house
Mad house, work house
And no one was letting us out
Except for the ship
And cheap passage on it
From a manor housed landlord,
Who's rent my ancestor's couldn't afford.
We've got the Ulster American Folk Park
Where tourists board the famine ark.
A reconstruction of emigration
To a Pennsylvanian situation
Bringing Bluegrass blues
Formed of Irish tunes
And I walk in history
As itís re-branded in front of me
As bomb site,
Becomes bright white,
Glass and steel,
To make us feel,

Catherine Brogan

To top of page

Shan's Poem

My mate from Pakistan goes back to the homeland
But its house arrest for Shan
Grandparents home at US Embassy,
Weíre supposed to go someday
Its years since that was a possibility
And we have this game together
About whose country is better
At topping the news bulletin
Reporting whoís had a bulletin
Invariably itís mine
But thereís no danger when I dine
At my northern Irish family home,
Nip back when I hear mum moan
Its years since Shanís gone
Hard to leave for so long
And not visit the North
The mountain ranges, desolate places,
Explosive changes
And itís always been this way
And mineís gets better, hers gets worst
And the procession behind the hearse,
Commits the dead to verse
And Jihad video
And continues to sow
In the fertile minds
Of martyrs friends
That they must seek revenge.
And I know Shanís scared
What with all the news weíve heard
And weíre both exiles in London
And our countries are long gone
Cause what is there to do
Between me and you
To make our countries better
Cause life is for living and here its free
And on its head let it be
My grandfather was a sheep farmer
Shopkeeper, bread man, father of ten
Shanís was the grandfather of the judiciary
Very different men
Heís got his name in history
Shanís got surnames on street signs
My granddad has zero google finds
Shanís great-granddad was the first chief justice
And what will become of us
What is our responsibility
To our countryís history?
Itís messy when the enemy's within
And you find yourself in publishing.

Catherine Brogan

To top of page


My granddad was to play in,
In the first film,
Of Titanic, it would have been sick,
To see him riding the Atlantic,
Some random mick.
But he had the farm to tend,
Fences to mend,
Backs to bend.
While great Aunt Tessies making buns
The fightin Darcyís are hiding guns,
In among the little ones,
Weeins as we say
When I was a wee'n I used to play,
All day, in among the hay,
Never knew my mother's dad,
Died when she was 15, fairly sad.
But no one talks of the sadness,
Grandmotherís madness,
The grinding poverty,
The longing to be free,
It wasnít easy,
To get a job you see,
So they went to Amerikee.
In Ireland, everything must rhyme,
To pass the time,
Or you turn to drink so you donít think.
Cause my brain and my granddadís.
Couldnít understand the grand plans,
Of the written language,
Never could gauge,
The subtle interplays,
The nuance, the nonchalance.
I want to explain my behaviour,
Jesus is not my personal saviour,
In my country if you have a problem Ė shout,
Speak out,
You got to be louder and bolder and colder.
You get respect for the terms of your abuse,
Full marks for good word use.
Its about the drama, the palaver,
The poetry, the story,
The tin whistle, the prayer missal,
The oral tradition,
The big drums, screaming mums,
The Gaelic football, so stand tall, proud of it all.

Catherine Brogan


Performance of The Omagh-ah

Catherine Brogan's first festival gig, Larmer Tree Festival, the Lostwood Stage.

Performance of The Abandoned Empire

Belfasts  Child

you are so young yet you walk to the beat of belfasts drum,
there should be promise in your eyes but its replaced by historys hate and dispise,
you play your flute with prody pride, religion always by your side,
your anger shows in your reflective stare each note a declaration of how much you care,
will no surrender be your lifes claim,
will you kill and maime in ulsters name
what will take you to your peace, what will make this madness cease,
our fight for our counties well in the past, but this hatred between us will always last,
our flags now represents our unforgivable sins, belfast child when will you see this is now a war that no one can win.

Emma Wilson

Emma Wilson is writing about "the recent needless violence" and comes from Northern Ireland. (September 2010)