Image by Charlotte Medlicott

Poem introduction

I wrote this next poem, 'Mametz Wood', when I went to the Somme battlefield to make a short film about two Welsh writers who had fought at this place. The two writers were called David Jones and Wyn Griffith, and they wrote very very different accounts of this dreadful battle, but it was a strange battle because there seemed to be lots of poets present: it was also where Robert Graves was wounded; Siegfried Sassoon actually watched the battle, so it's a battlefield of the Somme that appears again and again in memoirs of poets and actually in their poetry, and I really wrote this because while I was there they uncovered a shallow grave of twenty Allied soldiers who had been buried very very quickly but whoever had buried them had taken the time to actually link their arms, arm-in-arm, and when I saw a photograph of this grave I just knew that it was one of those images that had burned itself onto my mind and I knew that I would want to write about it eventually. As it happens I did, but the poem took a long time to surface very much in the same way that those elements of the battle are still surfacing through the fields eighty-five years later.

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