Scotland’s Makar, Jackie Kay, has written a poem sequence to mark the meeting in 1917 of the poets Wilfred Owen and Siegfried Sassoon at Edinburgh’s Craiglockhart Hospital. There, Sassoon encouraged and mentored Owen, who went on to write the most searing of poetic testaments to the horror and futility of the First World War. In her poem below, Jackie Kay imagines the hospital itself reflecting on its patients.

            CRAIGLOCKART (War Hospital for Neurasthenic Officers)

At night, my walls close in on men

Who have closed in aroon their selves

Young men – auld souls – whose een

Replay the shocking things they’ve seen and been.


Men, who’d prefer an all-nighter,

A chain of cigarettes, a book,

Than to see the look of those up closer

Wandering forever lost in the in-between


At night, when the moon has slipped

Over the Salisbury Crags,

Men within my cracked walls

Meet ghouls o’ themselves coming back.


I feel the weight of them,

Whose hearts are in lock-down,

Whose deaths are in their mouths,

Who stammer through to dawn.


What would you do if you were me

Listening night after night to broken men?

Would you put them under lock and key?

Or would you unlock their hearts again.


I would give them my art, my poetry

I’d give them my land and the grief of my sea.

I’d give them the spill of my Pentland Hills

I’d give them my will and my word


So I would, so I will - here’s my hand,

here’s my heart - to put an end to war