While some of the themes presented in Mametz Wood also appear elsewhere in Sheers’ poetry, I do not agree that it is key to the collection as it is not wholly typical. The most significant theme presented in Mametz Wood is the idea of loss, which is portrayed to some extent in almost all of Sheers’ poetry. This poem, however, is different as far as subject matter is concerned in that it deals with the loss of life during the war and the subsequent loss of national identity.
Other poems in the collection are more concerned with the loss of love and the breakdown of romantic relationships, the most notable examples being Marking Time, Keyways and Valentine who explore the struggle for personal rather than collective identity. The poem which is most similar in subject matter to Mametz Wood is Joseph Jones. Mametz Wood, written as a response to the tragic Battle of the Somme, discusses the ‘wasted young’ and ‘twenty men buried in one long grave’.
In this poem he gives the soldiers who died a collective identity and prompts the reader to sympathise with them through the use of sinister imagery such as ‘broken mosaic of bone’ and ‘skeletons paused mid dance-macabre’. Joseph Jones however, as the title of the poem suggests, remembers only one young man. While it is not made explicitly clear that he died in the war, the use of past tense ‘of course I remember Joseph’ and nostalgic admiration suggests that this was the case.
In Mametz Wood their youth is conveyed through phrases such as ‘wasted young’ and ‘boots that outlasted them’, evoking pity in the reader. In Joseph Jones his youth is shown through phrases such as, ‘fifty press ups before a night out’, suggesting physical strength and fitness, and crude imagery typical of young males, including, ‘told us all how he got his red wings’, which is a reference to him losing his virginity. The key difference between the poem is that Mametz Wood remembers and mourns the dead, whereas Joseph Jones admires him, describing him as a ‘small town myth’ and celebrates his life.
However, although the relationship between the poems is clear regarding subject matter, their style is less similar. Mametz Wood is written emotively with a great deal of natural imagery which is more typical of the collection as a whole, whereas Joseph Jones is written simplistically. While they are both in stanzas, they are presented differently upon the page and the sentence structure is also different: Joseph Jones uses short sentences and lines to create suspense whereas Mametz Wood uses long sentences.