Book Haven remembers World War I – send us some un-famous poems, letters, reminiscences

George in WWI

A Cambridge man.

A few days ago, we discussed Philip Larkin‘s “MCMXIV” as a candidate for the iconic poem of World War I, as we commemorate the centenary of that war’s beginning.  Others had other nominations. Joseph Koczera wrote, “I always think of Wilfred Owen‘s ‘Dulce et Decorum Est’ as the WWI poem, though I like Larkin’s more – it’s kind of an apples-and-orange comparison, though, as they reflect very different perspectives and voices. Given its content, I can kind of see how ‘MCMXIV’ fits the spirit of the centenary more exactly than ‘Dulce et Decorum Est’ would.” Shirley Huang wrote, “Paul Fussell’s ‘The Great War and Modern Memory’ does a good job of exploring WWI and lost innocence as reflected in literature and language.” Book Haven penpal George suggested Robert Graves’s “Recalling War,” A.E. Houseman’s “Epitaph on an Army of Mercenary Soldiers,” and Thomas Hardy’s “In Time of ‘The Breaking of Nations.'”

Then Lisa Trei (she’s written guest posts on Estonia at the Book Haven here and here) sent me something privately – a poem her grandfather had written at 21, while serving in France. Lieutenant George P. McNamee, Jr. served in the 50th Artillery Coast Artillery Corps of the U.S. Army. He had been a student at the University of Oregon from 1914-17, then volunteered in the Oregon National Guard, which became part of the U.S. Army during the war. He was stationed in Abbeville, France, when the Armistice was signed in November 1918. After the war, he attended Fitzwilliam College at Cambridge. The San Franciscan died in 1990 at the age of 97. “He was very proud of his service in the U.S. Army,” Lisa wrote.



That gave us an idea: We welcome any poems, letters, or other reminiscences of World War I, for the rest of the the month of August – maybe longer, we’ll see. Yes, yes, yes – we know we’re late to the table. The big centenary events happened earlier this month. But 2014 is still a hundred years after 1914, and will be till the end of the year, by our reckoning. And, for that matter, it’s still August. This is not a literary contest. We won’t be judging or awarding prizes. Our aim is simply to commemorate the soldiers and civilians of that long and terrible war – in particular, those who haven’t been quoted in articles or interviewed on TV,  those who haven’t written books, or been written about in books. We’re looking for, as Lisa put it, the un-famous poem, or letter from the front, or reminiscence.

Like this one:

Grandpa's poem

2 Responses to “Book Haven remembers World War I – send us some un-famous poems, letters, reminiscences”

  1. Brock D. Bierman Says:


    Thank you for posting the photo, poem and information regarding George. I would like to use the poem in my book that I am writing about the 50th Artillery, CAC. I would also enjoy talking with you about any stories, remembrances or details about his service. I can be reached at repbrock@msn.con and would be happy to share the information I have. According to regimental papers, George was assigned to Battery B on the 27th of September 7, 1918 at Camp Eustis, VA.

    Best regards,

    Brock Bierman

  2. Cynthia Haven Says:

    I’ve forwarded your contact info to his granddaughter, Lisa Trei. Good luck!