Looking at war photos with poems being whispered to you by ghosts amongst the mud…

This is a book you take your time with, a companion you turn to to hear another one of their stories. It’s like sitting in a train car and hearing your companion, a stranger to you before this day, open a tome of history you’ve probably heard very little about. At least this American traveler knows little. You sit up a little straighter, feel the solemnity, and are handed this book.

You can flip open to any page of this almost four hundred page work and pick a photo that catches your eye; your companion then reads to you the accompanying poem, words that echo the realities of war and its hells. Stay awhile and listen–the book is solid and weighs on your lap as you page through the photos, the weight grounding you to the present. You hear a train whistle; a horse neighs and stamps its hoof. In the black and white photos, people greet us with smiles in new uniforms, quite proudly. Some pose solemnly, while others appear already wary or unsure. These people, these Australians, are being called by England (as the opening poems tell us) to stop their regular lives and come fight. So, they come.

Reading these poems is like looking at a scrapbook of history, hearing words travel back to you through time. You wanted a war? the soldiers seem to say. Well, here is your war. Here is what happens; here is what it does. What do you think of this now? We’re people, just like you–we had dreams and aspirations, too. We’re not so different, are we?

To embark on such a quest as this–a historical research project mixed with gentle but strong and unflinching poetry–is remarkable. Museums and archivists take note–sell this in your gift shops, preserve it in your archives. Professors, teachers–share with your students. Mr. Prem includes the sources where he obtained each photo (a feat in itself), and also provides an index with each poem. This would also make an excellent Christmas or birthday gift for those who appreciate history. A remarkable project, beautifully executed. Well done.

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To visit the author’s page, please visit here. If you care to browse more of the author’s works, more can be found on his bookshop page. You can either order a copy of the author’s works there, or search on Amazon. Cheers.

1 Comment on “Poetry-Photo Book Review: “Sheep on the Somme” (WWI Australia)

  1. Pingback: Sheep On The Somme – Peregrine’s Review. | Frank Prem Poetry

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