Remembering We Forget
Poets, Artists and the First World War was an exhibition at the Sidney Cooper Gallery that explored our continuing attempts to meaningfully remember those who lost their lives in WW1.
Dr Andrew Palmer and Dr Sally Minogue have published articles, and are now completing a book, The Remembered Dead: Poetry, Memory and the First World War, on the ways in which poets have written about dead soldiers, and how these poems interact in our minds with other forms of remembrance such as stone memorials and photographs.
This work shaped a unique exhibition at Canterbury Christ Church University’s Sidney Cooper Gallery entitled ‘Remembering, we forget’: poets, artists and the First World War’ which explored the ways poets and artists have responded to the First World War. The exhibition included a collage of more than 200 photographs brought in to the gallery by local residents, depicting their ancestors who took part in the war. Nigel Breadman, Photographic Archivist at Canterbury Christ Church University, gathered the images and listened to the stories behind them.
The photographs were placed alongside responses to the war made through poetry, sculpture, print, drawing, photography and film. Contemporary responses in photography and art included the work of Kent-based practitioners Karen Shepherdson, Dawn Cole and Roy Eastland.Dr Palmer, Principal Lecturer in Modern Literature at Canterbury Christ Church University, said:
“The exhibition’s title, ‘Remembering, we forget’, comes from a poem by the soldier-poet Siegfried Sassoon. It draws our attention to the real difficulty in these centenary years of the war: we can be so busy commemorating that we forget to remember in ways that are meaningful and real.“The poems we included don’t simply express grief, they also engage with that difficulty of expressing grief without eliding or blurring the truth of the traumatic experience.”
Drs Palmer and Minogue are making a research trip to the Forester’s House near Cambrai where the poet Wilfred Owen spent his last night, before being killed in action on November 4, 1918. The house has been transformed by artist Simon Patterson into a memorial/artwork consisting of visual and aural elements derived from the handwritten drafts of Owen’s poetry. This most interesting act of commemoration, which draws together poetry, art, stone memorial and photography, will inform the closing chapter of their forthcoming book.Note: The Gallery also produced a publication, ‘Remembering, we forget’: poets, artists and the First World War, which included images of the artwork and new essays by Drs Palmer and Minogue drawing on their research. Copies are available from the Sidney Cooper Gallery.