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Belgium was a casus belli for the Great War in 1914 and its post-war fate was part of president Wilson’s Fourteen Points, yet there is no such thing as a Belgian canon of First World War poetry. Famous civilian poets like Émile Verhaeren were hailed in Allied propaganda, but their wartime verse is largely forgotten. Poems written in Flemish (a local variant of Dutch) are hardly ever read in the Francophone part of the country. The war and many of the Flemish poems written about it testify of a gradual crumbling of Belgian unity. Paul van Ostaijen’s 1921 Bezette Stad (Occupied City, also translated into English, French and German) is a powerful example of avant-garde typography but it is also a testament to the radical Flemish activists who, during the course of the war, started to despise their native Belgium even more than they did the German occupier. Those wounds have never really healed.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationA History of World War One Poetry
EditorsJane Potter
PublisherCambridge University Press
ISBN (Print)978-1009100649
Publication statusPublished - 2022


  • Belgium
  • Flemish Movement
  • nationalism
  • cultural memory
  • canon/canonisation
  • avant-garde
  • Paul van Ostaijen
  • Daan Boens
  • Emile Verhaeren


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