The Folio Book of War Poetry

Illustrated by Neil Gower

Binding and Title Page Illustration by Jonathan Lloyd

Selected and introduced by Andrew Motion

In an exclusive Folio anthology illustrated by Jonathan Lloyd and Neil Gower, former Poet Laureate Andrew Motion gathers together the greatest war poetry, from antiquity to the Cold War and beyond.

Add To Wish List
‘[War poetry] exists to warn us about the brutal realities of conflict, and to strip away the comfortable lies of those who stay at home and send other people out to die. But the force of its warning depends on the way it also speaks of other and opposite things: of tenderness, of shock, of sorrow, of homesickness, of generosity, and of affection.’
  1. Andrew Motion

In his introduction to this unique Folio anthology, Andrew Motion tells us the best war poetry is ‘concerned with much more than war itself – which helps to explain why we take it so much to heart’. It is a promise fulfilled in the former Poet Laureate’s brilliant, eclectic selection, stretching from translations from Homer’s Iliad (‘the first and greatest of all war poems’) to 20th-century verse written in the shadow of nuclear apocalypse. Motion’s net takes in Anglo-Saxon epic, Cavalier poetry from the English Civil War and reactions to the horrors of the Blitz. There are works translated from classical Greek, Latin and Chinese, from medieval Welsh and from modern Polish and German. There is a strong showing from the First World War, with well-loved works by Wilfred Owen and Siegfried Sassoon, but Motion seeks also to include lesser-heard voices on war, in poems by women including Emily Dickinson, Stevie Smith and Elizabeth Bishop. Bound in a camouflage-like binding The Folio Book of War Poetry is an anthology with as much to tell about human conflict as any history book, curated by one of Britain’s greatest living poets.

Bound in cloth printed and blocked with a design by Jonathan Lloyd

Set in Plantin

376 pages

Full colour title-page spread by Jonathan Lloyd, 10 integrated motifs printed in a second colour by Neil Gower

Blocked slipcase

9½˝ x 6¾˝

‘While anthologies such as this commemorate rare and valuable acts of speech, they are also echo chambers of absent voices. Marginalised voices, suppressed voices ... as well as voices cut short by fighting itself.’
  1. Andrew Motion

In this unique collection, Andrew Motion arranges his choices chronologically, bringing home how war and its poetry have changed through the ages. Although Anglo-American works make up the backbone of the anthology, other cultures are included; and there are selections that would not traditionally be considered war poetry, such as American patriotic songs, ribald rhymes from the trenches, and even Lewis Carroll’s nonsense verse. The book’s striking design is the work of two acclaimed illustrators. Jonathan Lloyd contributed bold, semi-abstract designs for the frontispiece and binding, while regular Folio Society collaborator Neil Gower created the swirling motifs that decorate the text.

Andrew Motion is an English poet, novelist and biographer. After graduating from the University of Oxford, where he studied under W. H Auden, he taught English at Hull University alongside Philip Larkin, whose official biographer he later became. In the 1980s, he edited the Poetry Review and acted as poetry editor at Chatto & Windus. Motion was UK Poet Laureate from 1999–2009. During this period, he founded the Poetry Archive, an online resource of poems and poets reading their own work. Questions of time, the erosion of places and the inner workings of memory are all themes that are encoded in Motion’s own poetry. The figure of the soldier appears in many of his poems; Motion has spent time with those who have served in wars, from World War Two to Afghanistan, and bears witness in his writing to their experiences of survival and death. He now lives in Baltimore, USA, where he is currently Homewood Professor of the Arts at Johns Hopkins University. 

Neil Gower is an internationally acclaimed freelance illustrator and artist, working across a range of media and styles. Over the past 30 years, he has worked with most major publishing houses in the UK and US, including Penguin, Random House, Transworld, Knopf and magazines such as The New Yorker and Vanity Fair. He was also the contributing artist to Conde Nast Traveller in New York for ten years. His celebrated book jacket designs include all the William Golding titles for Faber, as well as Bill Bryson’s entire backlist for Transworld. Neil has worked on over 100 binding designs for The Folio Society. His recent projects also include private commissions for Sir Roy Strong and Raymond Blanc. Marking a shift from distilling the words of others into paint, his first collection of poetry, Meet Me in Palermo, was released in 2021. He lives in Lewes, Sussex and – when global events permit – Kreuzberg, Berlin.

Jonathan Lloyd is an award-winning painter and printmaker. Having graduated from Maidstone College of Art in 1986 with a degree in Fine Art, he spent ten years in London working as an ice sculptor, before moving to Northumberland in 2004. Here, he returned to painting and printmaking. Lloyd has said about his work: ‘I like pictorial mechanisms that move the viewers gaze both emphatically and subtly, I’m interested in an interference between the rectilinear and something more lyrical and fluid’. He is a regular exhibitor in the Summer Exhibition at the Royal Academy and also the Royal Scottish Academy, and was shortlisted for the Newlight Art Prize in 2017.


You May Also Like

  1. Limited Edition
    Rupert Brooke: Selected Poems

    Rupert Brooke: Selected Poems

    Rupert Brooke

    Illustrated by Ed Kluz


    A limited edition published to commemorate the poet’s death in April 1915 and designed to emulate the fine press editions of the early 20th century. In series with Selected Poems Edward Thomas and Selected Poems Wilfred Owen.

  2. Collected Poems

    Collected Poems

    Philip Larkin


    This exceptional Folio edition of Philip Larkin’s Collected Poems includes a new foreword by Andrew Motion. It is the only edition of Larkin’s poetry to be illustrated with many of the author’s own photographs.

  3. A Folio Anthology of Poetry

    A Folio Anthology of Poetry

    Illustrated by Eri Griffin


    Introduced by Poet Laureate Carol Ann Duffy, this anthology is a celebration of poetry and the passion it inspires. It gathers together more than 300 of our favourite poems, spanning over 400 years.

  4. Limited Edition
    Wilfred Owen: Selected Poems

    Wilfred Owen: Selected Poems

    Wilfred Owen

    Illustrated by Neil Bousfield


    A new limited edition published to commemorate the poet’s death in November 1918 and designed to emulate the fine press editions of the early 20th century. In series with Selected Poems Rupert Brooke and Selected Poems Edward Thomas.

  5. Limited Edition
    Edward Thomas: Selected Poems

    Edward Thomas: Selected Poems

    Edward Thomas

    Illustrated by David Gentleman


    A limited edition published to commemorate the poet’s death in April 1917 and designed to emulate the fine press editions of the early 20th century. In series with Selected Poems Rupert Brooke and Selected Poems Wilfred Owen.

  6. Bestsellers
    Bomber Command

    Bomber Command

    Max Hastings


    Max Hastings’ history of Bomber Command, now in a new Folio edition, illuminates this controversial aspect of the Second World War through contemporary photographs and first-hand interviews.