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World War 2 poetry

Discussion in 'WWII General' started by MichaelBully, Nov 9, 2016.

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  1. MichaelBully

    MichaelBully Member

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    I have started a blog about World War 2 poetry. My interest stemmed from looking at some of the lesser known war poetry from World War 1 then realising that was a great amount of poetry from World War 2 that is much neglected.

    I already have a blog and website about 'Great War at Sea Poetry'.

    So far I've only looked at British poetry but hope to expand this.

    World War 2 poetry is often overlooked and hasn't defined the popular view of World War 2 in the way that poets have been so significant in interpreting World War 1, but some quite fascinating work was published.

    Keith Douglas is probably the most acclaimed British World War 2 poet, though 'Naming of the Parts' by Henry Reed is normally considered the most popular British poem from World War 2.

    http://worldwar2poetry.blogspot.co.uk/

    So far have featured Vernon Scannell, Henry Treece, John Hendry, Alun Lewis, Alexandra Grantham amongst others.

    Whilst have added posts about World War 2 naval poets Alan Ross and Roy Fuller to

    http://greatwaratsea.blogspot.co.uk/

    Suggestion welcome about other poets and poems that I could look at.
     
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  2. LRusso216

    LRusso216 Graybeard Patron  

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    I've pinned this thread for ease of finding. If you have a WW2 poem or poet that you like, put it
    here.
     
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  3. MichaelBully

    MichaelBully Member

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    Perhaps one of the most famous World War 2 poems in English, 'Vergissmeinnicht' , written around 1943. More of Keith Douglas' work can be found on 'Poem Hunter' .

    Biographical details about Keith Douglas are available on the War Poets Association website.

    http://www.warpoets.org/poets/keith-castellain-douglas-1920-1944/

    Not my personal favourite but quite admire the way the poet reports the brutality of war with a sense of pity for the dead soldier's lover even though said soldier was a 'killer' . There is no attempt by the poet to write an epic, or to try and convey some great truth about the nature of war. He is capturing a Desert War scene in words.









    'Vergissmeinnicht' -Keith Douglas

    Three weeks gone and the combatants gone
    returning over the nightmare ground
    we found the place again, and found
    the soldier sprawling in the sun.

    The frowning barrel of his gun
    overshadowing. As we came on
    that day, he hit my tank with one
    like the entry of a demon.

    Look. Here in the gunpit spoil
    the dishonoured picture of his girl
    who has put: Steffi. Vergissmeinnicht.
    in a copybook gothic script.

    We see him almost with content,
    abased, and seeming to have paid
    and mocked at by his own equipment
    that's hard and good when he's decayed.

    But she would weep to see today
    how on his skin the swart flies move;
    the dust upon the paper eye
    and the burst stomach like a cave.

    For here the lover and killer are mingled
    who had one body and one heart.
    And death who had the soldier singled
    has done the lover mortal hurt.

    http://www.poemhunter.com/poem/vergissmeinnicht/
     
  4. Ron Goldstein

    Ron Goldstein WWII Veteran Patron  

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    I've heard it said that everyone has at least one poem inside them.

    I wrote mine after passing through Adrano in Sicily, shortly after 78 Div infantry had taken the town.

    "Darkness had fallen as we entered the town,
    but t'was light enough still to see,
    the shattered ruins of what had been, a town, in Sicily.

    It wasn't much to call a town, compared with those of greater size.
    It wasn't built for modern war and now a stinking heap it lies,
    Rotting beneath the azure skies, of Sicily.

    It seemed as if an angry God had run amok with gory hands,
    Then dropped a veil, a canopy, of dirty, blinding, choking sands
    And as to wreak his vengeance more, had propped a body in each door

    We drove on by with sober thought,
    Of those poor bastards who'd been caught,
    We grimaced at the sick, sweet, smell, of this small piece of man made hell

    This could be you, the bodies said,
    This could be you, soon gone, soon dead
    We hurried by, enough to be,
    Alive that day, in Sicily"

    Ron
     
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  5. MichaelBully

    MichaelBully Member

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    That's great Ron. Was this poem every published ? Can't think of that many other poems from the Italian campaign apart from Spike Milligan's 'The Soldiers at Lauro'


    THE SOLDIERS AT LAURO
    Spike Milligan

    Young are our dead
    Like babies they lie
    The wombs they blest once
    Not healed dry
    And yet - too soon
    Into each space
    A cold earth falls
    On colder face.
    Quite still they lie
    These fresh-cut reeds
    Clutched in earth
    Like winter seeds
    But they will not bloom
    When called by spring
    To burst with leaf
    And blossoming
    They sleep on
    In silent dust
    As crosses rot
    And helmets rust.

    http://salamanderoasis.org/poems/m/milligan-spike/lauro.html
     
  6. Ron Goldstein

    Ron Goldstein WWII Veteran Patron  

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  7. MichaelBully

    MichaelBully Member

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    Well done Ron . .... having the poem translated and published on an Italian website is a tribute to your writing.

    Just found that the Oasis Salamander Trust published an anthology titled 'From Oasis into Italy;war poems and diaries from Africa and Italy, 1940-1946' in 1983. Will try to get hold of this as would like to find more poetry from the Italian campaign.
     
  8. MichaelBully

    MichaelBully Member

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    Have been working on some research about the Scottish World War 2 poets. As World War 2 was happening soon after the' Scottish Renaissance , a new cultural and political appraisal of Scottish identity most noticeably through poetry and fiction writing. Some Scottish World War 2 poetry was written in Gaelic or Doric.

    There was opposition to World War 2 amongst some Scottish Nationalists, Douglas Young, (Classicist and poet ) , leader of the Scottish National Party from 1942-45 refused to register for war work on the basis that the Act of Union of 1707 did not give Westminster the legal right to conscript Scottish people to fight outside of Britain . Douglas Young served two prison terms as a result.

    An excellent anthology is 'From the Line Scottish War Poetry 1914-1945' edited by David Goldie and Roderick Watson, published by the Association for Scottish Literary Studies, 2014.
     
  9. MichaelBully

    MichaelBully Member

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  10. MichaelBully

    MichaelBully Member

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    Cultural historian of the Orient and poet Alexandra Ethelreda Grantham was born in Germany in 1870, and settled in Britain in the early 1890's. She has the tragic distinction of having two sons dying in each world war : The first to die was Ltn. Hugo Frederick Grantham,Third Battalion Essex Regiment, died at Gallipoli, on 28th June 1915, and is buried at Twelve Tree Copse Cemetery. The second son was Godfrey Harry Grantham, who was a pilot instructor in the RAF volunteer reserve and was killed on 21st June 1942 aged 30 whilst training another serviceman. He was buried at St. Wythan's churchyard, Repton Derbyshire.

    Alexandra Grantham had a collection of verse published privately printed and titled 'Godrey Grantham' (1943). The poems are all in Godfrey's memory,

    Here is one of them , written on 24th June 1942, three days after Godrey's death.

    " WRECKED

    The baneful news crashed through my body
    Like a hurricane at sea,
    Tearing to battered rags of hissing foam and
    whirlpools
    In wilful chaos of upheaval
    The surface of its undulating calm,
    Shattered marvellous cohesion of great ships
    The bore rich merchandise of hopes and dream
    Wrecked, wrecked and sunk
    The Ocean will regain
    The fluctuating rhythms of its calm
    But dreams of ideal happiness
    Once broken into,
    Cease to be "


    Found some more information on Godfrey Granthan at

    http://www.reptonvillage.org.uk/history_group/ww2_graves.pdf
     
  11. MichaelBully

    MichaelBully Member

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    Have updated World War 2 poetry blog , looking at Siegfried Sassoon's influence on World War 2 poets http://worldwar2poetry.blogspot.co.uk/ : Sassoon's few World War 2 poems are not remembered , yet World War 2 poets were later to cite his work as an inspiration.
     
  12. MichaelBully

    MichaelBully Member

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    Thought that this thread needed another poem.
    This is George Malcolm's 'Lament', from the anthology 'Return to Oasis-War Poems & Recollections From the Middle East 1940- 1946'-( 1980 edition- each and every poet featured had to " Have served in the Forces in the Middle East theatre of war in the 1940's and have have written his or her poems at the time. "


    " As I walked under the African moon,
    I heard the piper play;
    And the last place I ever heard that tune
    Was a thousand miles away.

    Far to the west, in a deep-cut bay
    By the ceaseless sound of the sea,
    We lived and laughed in a happier day,
    Archie and Johnie and me.

    For they'd be piping half of the night
    At every ceilidh by,
    And I'd be dancing with all my might
    As long as they played, would I.

    Many a tine we were at the Games,
    And many a prize had we;
    And never a one but called our names,
    Archie and Johnie and me.

    But Archie's dead on the Libyan sand
    And Johnie was left in Crete,
    And I'm alone in a distant land
    With the music gone from my feet.

    I heard him under the African moon,
    That piper I could not see;
    Yet certain I am he played that tune
    For Archie and Johnie and me. "
     
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  13. Martin Bull

    Martin Bull Acting Wg. Cdr Patron  

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    The Oasis Trust did a superb job & their work can be found in the following : -

    'Poems Of The Second World War' ( Oasis / Everyman,1985 )

    'More Poems Of The Second World War' ( Oasis / Everman 1989 )

    'Return To Oasis' ( Oasis / Shepheard/Walwyn 1980 )

    'From Oasis Into Italy' ( Oasis / Shepheard/Walwyn 1983 ).
     
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  14. MichaelBully

    MichaelBully Member

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    Indeed Martin, I have been trying to collect the Oasis titles. One advantage of researching World War 2 poetry as opposed to World War 1, is that anthologies in original form are not so well sought after, so can be bought cheaply on line. A disadvantage is that Word War 2 anthologies are less likely to be available on line in digital format.

    Would like to get access to the Oasis Salamander archives one day.

    In the near future I hope to post a definitive list of World War 2 poetry anthologies.....will include these titles and offer you all due credit . Thanks.
     
  15. Martin Bull

    Martin Bull Acting Wg. Cdr Patron  

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    Yes, it took me quite a while to hunt down the four books. One nice thing is that the copy I have of 'From Oasis Into Italy' is numbered and signed by the editors and advisers ( including General Sir John Hackett and Field Marshal Lord Carver ).

    The very best of luck with your endeavours ; it seems that after a very brief 'revival', WW2 poetry is in danger of slipping back into oblivion......
     
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  16. MichaelBully

    MichaelBully Member

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    Thanks for your support Martin. Yes hope that the blog will be a contribution into highlighting World War 2 poetry. But being fair,the War Poets Association website will have webpage articles about World War 2 poets such as Alun Lewis, Keith Douglas, Vernon Scannell, Timothy Corsellis along with plenty about World War 1 poets.

    http://www.warpoets.org/

    And modesty forbids , but they have just published a piece I wrote about World War 2 naval serving poet Alan Ross.

    http://www.warpoets.org/poets/alan-ross-1922-2001/


    With regard to literary societies, World War 1 poets win with some quite dynamic groups such as Wilfred Owen Association, Siegfried Sassoon Fellowship, and other such organisations dedicated to Robert Graves, Edward Thomas, Ivor Gurney, Rudyard Kipling, David Jones. Can't think of a World War 2 equivalent.

    To the best of my knowledge there is no World War 2 poetry taught at schools whilst World War 1 poetry finds its way on to the curriculum .

    Regards
     
  17. LRusso216

    LRusso216 Graybeard Patron  

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  18. MichaelBully

    MichaelBully Member

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    Thanks Lou- yes have seen said webpage as above. Helpful to have this added to the current thread.

    Have just finished reading 'War Like A Wasp -The Lost Decade of the Forties' by Andrew Sinclair (born 1935) , originally published in 1989.
    The author has provided a 'ROLL-CALL' of writers, poets and artists who died whilst on active service in World War 2.
    Will start going through this list, looks like a very useful resource.

    Happy new year to everyone here.
     
  19. MichaelBully

    MichaelBully Member

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    Pleased to announce the first update of World War 2 poetry blog for 2017, looking at the work of John Bayliss.

    [SIZE=13.3333px]worldwar2poetry.blogspot.co.uk[/SIZE][SIZE=13.3333px] [/SIZE]

    Most known for his work
    'Reported Missing' : Though I have chosen other examples of his work.

    https://allpoetry.com/Reported-Missing

    " With broken wing they limped across the sky
    caught in late sunlight, with their gunner dead,
    one engine gone,- the type was out-of-date, -
    blood on the fuselage turning brown from red:

    knew it was finished, looking at the sea
    which shone back patterns in kaleidoscope
    knew that their shadow would meet them by the way,
    close and catch at them, drown their single hope:

    sat in this tattered scarecrow of the sky
    hearing it cough, the great plane catching
    now the first dark clouds upon her wing-base, -
    patching the great tear in evening mockery.

    So two men waited, saw the third dead face,
    and wondered when the wind would let them die "
     
  20. YugoslavPartisan

    YugoslavPartisan Drug

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    Here's the most famous Yugoslav Partisan poem written by Ivan Goran Kovačić.

    "Blood is my daylight and darkness too.
    Blessing of night has been gouged from my cheeks
    Bearing with it my more lucky sight.
    Within those holes, for tears, fierce fire inflamed
    The bleeding socket as if for brain a balm –
    While my bright eyes died on my own palm"
     

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