Derek William Stead’s From Home to Sunset is a collection of 149 lyric and narrative poems, each written in rhymed verse and all centered on the theme of war—specifically, World War I.
Stead is clearly passionate and knowledgeable about military history, as evidenced by the numerical facts (“After four years bore/ Sixteen million war dead”) and the collection’s many war-grieved speakers (“I learned of my youngest, lost to war,/ By way of telegram sent to me…”).
His collection begins with the single-stanza poem, “We must always disrespect war/ But never the protagonists/ For ‘tis only they who know/ What true agony is,” which serves as a thesis for what follows. The poems consistently echo the message that war is contemptible, soldiers should be honored for their service, and families suffer terrible losses through war. However, readers are rarely given particular soldiers to follow, so the work remains largely general rather than specific, didactic rather than emotionally resonant.
Stead’s poetry also relies on telling rather than showing. After reading this volume, readers have reason to believe the speaker’s claim that “The Great War [was] so vile and horrid” but haven’t experienced the horrors of war in visceral ways. Instead of concrete details and sensory particulars, Stead inundates readers with abstractions like these: “Inspired by romantic notions/ And heroic ideas in his mind,/ He left home, ‘caused by patriotic devotions,/ But sadly tragedy did find.”
The collection tends toward redundancy, reiterating its anti-war message without much variation in tone or notable narrative progression: “Our weakest voice/ Is that of battle cry”; “But only a warrior’s heart shalt truly cry,/ For there’s no place like war”; “Let war end forever/ As God doth hold sway.”
From Home to Sunset is clearly heartfelt, and those who have experienced the horrors of war may appreciate the work’s sentiment. As is, however, this collection isn’t likely to satisfy serious readers of contemporary poetry.
Also available in hardcover and ebook.