Simon Armitage and Daljit Nagra

Poetry has long been associated with war, and this collection of poems and films adds some thought-provoking additions to the canon.

Commissioned as part of the First World War centenary programme, the Playhouse event saw screenings of five films inspired by new poems plus readings by Simon Armitage, and a discussion with Armitage, poet Daljit Nagra, and film maker Matt Kay.

The poems and films take a perhaps necessarily timid approach to the subject: they are not created by men and women who have fought, but those who have enjoyed the fruit of those sacrifices.

Nagra in particular talked of his unease with topic, preferring instead to base his work on an existing poem by Siegfried Sassoon; one of Kay’s films, after a poem by his mother, explores his grandfather’s memories of his own father’s attitude to war.

Armitage’s contribution – Still – stood a little aside from the other pieces, a separate commission that retro-fits interpretations of work by Virgil on to aerial photographs of the Somme battlefield: both more directly connected to the war and more distant from it, wrapped in ancient verse.

The audience bristled when the topic of membership of the European Union came up during the question and answer session, but poetry shouldn’t be afraid of anything: war and politics included.