As we search for industrial workers up to the 1920s, there are a lot of war poems by working-class writers coming across our radar. In the run-up to Sunday 11th, I’ll post a small selection of these.

First is an extract from a book-length bildungsroman poem, George Dickson’s Peter Rae (1925). The scarcity of information about Dickson online is surprising, because this is a very interesting poem about the trauma of war, written from the perspective of an apprentice engineer in the Clyde shipyards who joins up when he is sixteen, and following his journey back to civilian life. Perhaps it simply seems surprising because I’m used to Victorian poetics, and this is the first ‘modernist’, experimental poem by an industrial worker that I’ve found (Dickson wrote to T. S. Eliot, so the only information I can access is in a footnote in The Letters of T. S. Eliot, stating that Dickson was himself a Clyde fitter; Eliot seemingly turned his later poems down for publication).

From ‘Travail’

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