Kenneth Slessor

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Historical Context. Slessor was appointed official war correspondent by the Commonwealth government in February 1940. He served in North Africa, Greece and Syria thus saw a good deal of action. He regarded the position as a great honour and was loyal to the traditions and mythology of the Anzacs. Slessor’s was famous for his war diaries and poetry as his experience of being at the war front directly influence his writing. The futility of war is a common theme and sense carried throughout these poems, which indicates the realities and horrors of war.

An example is arguably one of his most famous poems, ‘Beach Burial,’ which is a military elegy or tribute to troops who fought in the Second World War. The poem conveys the futility of war and also war’s negative effect on people. The stanza seen here is an example of the futility of war evident in many of Slessor’s poem. In using words such as ‘unknown’ and ‘drowned men’ Slessor demonstrates even though the soldiers had served their countries, they will become unknown because of the many that died. This idea of becoming forgotten is emphasised through the simile shown here. This image here is an artist’s perception of what the war would be like. We can see that being a war correspondent, Slessor was exposed to conditions like this, which consequently must of impacted his writing, and thus bought about the anti-war sense.

Apart from his war poetry, Slessor’s work was greatly influenced by the changing cultural values associated with the modernist movement His admiration of Sydney Harbour and the sea is also seen throughout his poetry, especially when discussing themes of time and death, and can be considered a result of growing up near the water. Growing up near water bodies triggered the themes of sleep, sensuality, memory and the human purpose in life, in his poetry. Overall, Slessor’s poetry dealt with a modern, urban Australian experience, and explored themes such as the nature of consciousness and the...
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