The Poetry of Wilfred Owen and Sexuality or Lines Hidden in Plain Sight: Witnesses to a Nature Repressed and Suppressed carries out an analysis of the covert homo-erotic poems of Wilfred Owen.
The book also analyses the historical persecution of homosexuals during the 1910s, which reached hysterical and paranoid proportions during the First World War.
Wilfred Owen was described by Robert Graves as ‘an idealistic homosexual with a religious background’. As a result, Graves was ostracized by the Owen family after Owen’s death. Most personal messages and letters written to him were destroyed at the family’s request, particularly by his brother Harold Owen.
Letters written by him, mostly to his Mother, were also censored and redacted – some pages destroyed completely. Most of this suppression was an attempt to conceal Owen’s homosexuality.
Added to this tragedy of documentary loss, it appears that a portfolio of Owen’s most important poems was also lost. Perhaps, the greatest loss is a full copy of the poem, Strange Meeting, which, in all probability, was considerably longer than what we know today. It would be impossible properly to tease out the complete authenticity of that which Owen left us with, without a sensible acknowledgement of his sexuality.
Dominic Hibberd was the first to explore Owen’s sexuality – however, his approach was a ‘light touch’. Dominic’s approach to this question was diffident; his focus was on Owen’s art as a poet rather than dwelling too much on his daily life.
Robert Christoforides has spent over 24 years researching Wilfred Owen and the stories that surround his poetry, and has compiled poems from discarded manuscripts – some of which, clearly disclosing homosexual narratives.
“As a result of the family’s suppression of documents and the loss of manuscripts, a complete biography of Wilfred Owen in not possible. Accordingly, I undertook to write a ‘whole life’ biographical novel about Wilfred Owen’s life and times,” Robert explained.
“My own approach was, originally, to canvass the creative process – how it arises and how it manifests itself – all which was always merely an explorative process because such would, actually, give rise to questions which are unanswerable in any final way!”
I am the ghost of Shadwell Stair
And I have lips that are fresh o’night,
And ways like the river mists
And hands like the gradual tide upon the sands,
To feel and follow a man’s delight,
To feel what is wrong and smooth it right.