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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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    Thanks Paul, have messaged you and would be interested to read other poems that he wrote . Hope that you will share more of his work here. Regards
     
  2. Terry D

    Terry D Active Member

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    There was and is the published war poetry by servicemen who happened to be professional poets (Keith Douglas, Randall Jarrell, Gavin Ewart, etc). Then there was the popular, anonymous war poetry created during the conflict by soldiers, airmen, and sailors who were not professional poets. The latter was largely unprinted during the war because much of it was unprintable, if you know what I mean, but it nonetheless reflected the attitudes of the servicemen pretty accurately. That being said, I hope the mod will forgive my quoting the following in the interests of history.

    These are from the RAF, found in Gavin Lyall's The War in the Air.

    WE ARE THE HEAVY BOMBERS
    "We are the heavy bombers, we try to do our bit;
    We fly through concentrations of flak and cloud and shit;
    And when we dump our cargoes we do not give a damn;
    The bombs may miss the goods-yard but they fuck up poor old Hamm.

    And when in adverse weather the winds are all to hell,
    The navigator's balled up, the wireless balled as well,
    We think of all the popsies we've known in days gone by
    And curse the silly fuckers who taught us how to fly.

    They sent us out to Egypt, a very pleasant land
    Where miles and miles of sweet fuck-all are covered up with sand.
    And when we got to Cairo, the girls were heard to say
    'There ain't no hope for us dears, Thirty-seven's come to stay.'"

    AIN'T THE AIR FORCE FUCKING AWFUL?
    "We had been flying all day long at a hundred fucking feet,
    The weather fucking awful, fucking rain and fucking sleet.
    The compass it was swinging fucking south and fucking north,
    But we made a fucking landfall in the Firth of Fucking Forth.

    CHORUS: Ain't the Air Force fucking awful, ain't the Air Force fucking awful?
    We made a fucking landfall in the Firth of fucking Forth.

    Now we joined the fucking Air Force 'cause we thought it fucking right,
    But don't care if we fucking fly or fucking fight,
    But what we do object to are those fucking ops room twats,
    Who sit there sewing stripes on at a rate of fucking knots."

    I also like this little jingle, from the desert:

    EIGHTH ARMY SONG, 1942
    "Why don't we grease our nipples today,
    So we can run faster when we run away?"

    The finest of all, however, is American, from Paul Fussell's Wartime. I think it is the perfect expression of how every serviceman felt at times when he realized that he was trapped by the army, trapped by the war, trapped by vast forces of fate which did not give a damn for him.

    THE GREAT FUCKING WHEEL
    "Round and 'round went the Great Fucking Wheel,
    In and out went the great Prick of Steel,
    Balls of brass, all loaded with cream,
    And the whole mechanism was driven by steam!"
     
    Last edited: Aug 14, 2017
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  3. MichaelBully

    MichaelBully Member

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    Fabulous ! Thanks very much for sharing. Indeed should explore some of the lesser known A few years ago there was an anthology edited by John Sadler & Rosie Serdiville titled 'Tommy Rot- WWI Poetry They Didn't Let You Read' so perhaps there needs to be a WW2 equivalent.
     
  4. wm.

    wm. Active Member

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    That's right, it's explained in detail here and here.
    One interesting thing, the poem was an inspiration for the move Sewer, which is really a good movie despite being made during the communist era.

    The Soviets were unwilling to help, blocked Western offers of military aid, and the fighters were hunted like rabid dogs by them later. In similar circumstances and at the same time Stalin lost 100,000 of his soldiers trying to support the similarity doomed Slovak National Uprising.


    I think you are right. I hoped they were writing more "humane" poetry too - expressing doubts, desperation, fear or whatever else. But now I see that was stupid. The Nazi ideology despised any human weakness so it was very unlikely. All they poems are probably political and/or bombastic.
     
  5. MichaelBully

    MichaelBully Member

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    Thank you for the information on the movie 'Sewer'. ....need to check it out.
    Regarding WW2 poets who fought on the German side, have covered Peter Huchel and hope to upload my post on Johannes Bobrowski any day now. I accept that young German men during the Third Reich could rarely avoid being conscripted But if they used their skills as poets to justify and even praise the regime, that is going beyond what is required to survive and their work can remain in obscurity as far as I am concerned.
    Regards

    [QUOTE="wm. ( snip)

    I think you are right. I hoped they were writing more "humane" poetry too - expressing doubts, desperation, fear or whatever else. But now I see that was stupid. The Nazi ideology despised any human weakness so it was very unlikely. All they poems are probably political and/or bombastic.[/QUOTE]
     
  6. MichaelBully

    MichaelBully Member

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    World War 2 poetry blog has been updated featuring the work of Johannes Bobrowski , who fought for Germany on the Eastern Front, later to become a celebrated poet in the DDR.

    ***************extract*******************************

    One poem where humans activity is a central theme is 'Kaunas 1941' commemorating the killing of Jews by pro-German Lithuanian nationalists, who murdered their victims with iron bars and shovels whilst their supporters cheered them on. The style even then seems understated compared with the horror of the event.





    Kaunas 1941





    " Noisily

    the murderers pass the gate.we walk

    softly, in musty air, in the tracks of wolves.

    At evening we looked out

    over a stony valley. The hawk

    swept round the broad dome

    We saw the old town, house after house

    running down to the river.





    Will you walk over

    the hill? The grey processions

    -old men and sometimes boys-

    die there. They walk up the slope ahead of the slavering wolves."


    If Bobrowski is a serving soldier and observer, he reports the scene with a distinct detachment,at one point asking the question "Did my eyes avoid yours brother" The poem ends with the cryptic line 'My dark has already come' . Perhaps Bobrowski's work has been neglected in Britain as so many people wish to read war poetry as some sort of eye witness account...."


    Worldwar2poetry.blogspot,co.uk
     
    Last edited: Aug 24, 2017
  7. MichaelBully

    MichaelBully Member

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    World War 2 poetry blog latest :

    Blog posts about the two German poets discussed earlier in this thread , Peter Huchel and Johannes Bobrowski ,attracted the least visits to the blog ever ! Perhaps was the time of year. Overall, most visitors to the blog come from Russia and the USA .

    Have now updated to feature ww2f member justpaul 's father - RAF veteran Michael A . Mason's- poem 'Forty Years Backward March' along with a poem by Elizabeth Jennings who was 13 when World War 2 broke out. Elizabeth Jennings was later to become associated with the British 1950's poets known as 'The Movement' .


    Worldwar2poetry.blogspot.co.uk

    Next post will be about the poetry of Lynette Roberts who was living in Wales during World War 2.
     
  8. MichaelBully

    MichaelBully Member

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    Sorry for the absence, have got involved in launching a new blog about 17th century era war poetry- 'A Burnt Ship'. Still working on a blog post about Lynette Roberts ,

    Lynette Roberts was born in Argentina in 1909, and relocated to Britain in the 1930's, marrying Welsh magazine poet Keidrych Rhys in 1939.The couple settled in the village of Llanybri . Rhys was conscripted, and was later to go AWOL. Lynette Roberts immersed herself in Welsh village life, studying the mythology and language of the country, proud of her own Welsh ancestry. And wrote poetry of her own.
    Two collections subsequently appeared ' Poems' in 1944 and 'Gods With Stainless Ears' in 1951,and the latter featured a long poem about her life in Wales in World War II.
    Though Lynette Roberts and Keidrych Rhys has two young children born shortly after the war, their marriage broke down in the late 40's : In 1956 Lynette Roberts had the first of a series of breakdowns and suffered from mental health conditions from the rest of her life until her death in 1995.

    By then she was largely forgotten. Too ill to focus on poetry, the already published works of Lynette Roberts were left to lapse-seemingly out of fashion as new trends began to flourish in the late 50's such as 'The Movement' and 'The Angry Young Men'. Her previous friendships with such luminaries as Dylan Thomas, Robert Graves, Alun Lewis, T.S. Elliott earned her the occasional mention and the odd footnote.

    But in 21st century a new wave of interest appeared in her work with the appearance of 'Lynette Roberts-collected poems' edited by Patrick McGuiness in 2005 and a companion volume of 'Diaries, Letters, and Recollection ' in 2008, also edited by Patrick McGuiness.

    To be continued
     
  9. MichaelBully

    MichaelBully Member

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    Finally uploaded some of my thoughts on Lynette Roberts (1909- 1995)
    Worldwar2poetry.blogspot.co.uk

    I am going to expand the piece for my website some time in the near future as have got very intrigued by her life and work. One of these poets who are either a genius or just so wilfully obscure and obtuse that they are frustrating to read.

    The collection Lynette Roberts Diaries, Letter and Recollections ( from 2008) , featuring a lot of work not published in her lifetime, is intriguing. Especially her account of living in a South Wales village during World War 2, as a foreigner who seemed to wanting to immerse herself in anything and everything that was Welsh . She recounted being near enough to see the Swansea Air Raids, the impact of the War with men, including her husband the poet Keidrych Rhys , serving in the forces, evacuees from London in an area not used to outsiders, and having to face accusations of being a spy. Interesting when writing prose, Lynette Roberts was far more accessible.
     
  10. Jaap Vermeer MDE

    Jaap Vermeer MDE Active Member

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  11. Sheldrake

    Sheldrake Member

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    Sorry but you have obviously led a sheltered life and someone was pulling Paul Fussell's leg. :D

    This verse is part of the chorus of what is known in rugby clubs as "the Engineers song" It is not a song about war, but a cautionary tale about a woman who a seeks a mechanical solution to the failings of the male sex.

    None of these links is safe for work! All are full of barrack room language and sensibilities out of place in the modern world. Ned is a derogatory term for a young scottish delinquents

    ]
    THe Engineer's Song
    Engineers Song

    That is not to say that the song was not popular in wartime.

    Here is a Scottish equivalent. It was reputed that this was sung by the 51st Highland division when they marched past Churchill and Montgomery.at the parade in Tripoli
    also FSFW
     
    Last edited: Dec 11, 2017
  12. Ron Goldstein

    Ron Goldstein WWII Veteran Patron  

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    The poem I'd like to draw to your attention to was not actually written during WW2 but very much concerns ww2 matters.

    It is "The Vigil" by Jeremy Robson: http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/0449010X.2015.1084694
    and was written by him after a visit to a German railway station.

    I read this poem for the first time after I had just made a visit to my brother's grave in Durnbach, Germany and it mirrored my emotions as I looked round the breakfast room of the small hotel in which my family party were staying,.

    Ron
     
    Last edited: Dec 13, 2017
  13. MichaelBully

    MichaelBully Member

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    Pleased to see some more posts on the thread.
    Ron...thank you for the link to Jeremy Robson's poem 'The Vigil' -appreciated . I want to read it a couple more times . I am interested in poetry about World War 2 from subsequent years, and have covered the work of at least one poet who was born after the War but whose parents were refugees. Will try to find more of his work.
    Particularly intrigued by the lines
    "Impossible to conceive
    the fear, the shadows of
    the night. The bootsteps
    on the stair "

    Just gives such a great snapshot of life under a totalitarian regime . It's where poetry can really excel in portraying human feeling.
    Regards
     
  14. Ron Goldstein

    Ron Goldstein WWII Veteran Patron  

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    Michael

    Glad you liked "The Vigil"

    After reading it I wrote to the author and thanked him as I felt it rang so true after my own experience.

    Whilst writing about poetry, did you catch one of my previous postings concerning Wace ?

    Just in case you missed it, I reproduce it now for your comment:

    There is a poem by "Master Wace", as shown below, that has always impressed me with it's inherent truth and grasp of the matter.
    I have lost the original link to this item so I can't acknowledge the site but I ask you to read it so that you can see where I am coming from.

    All Things To Nothingness Descend - Author & Title Unknown

    Master Wace - from his Chronicles of the Norman Dukes Found on the Chart of Harold F Umstott (1907-1922) c 1170

    All things to nothingness descend,
    Grow old and die and meet their end;
    Man dies, iron rusts, wood goes decayed,
    Towers fall, wall crumble, roses fade...
    Nor long shall any name resound
    Beyond the grave, unless't be found
    In some clerk's book; it is the pen
    That gives immortality to men

    Ron
     
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  15. gtblackwell

    gtblackwell Well-Known Member Patron  

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    Ron, on this the next to last day of Hannukkah I am reminded of all the gifts of authentic knowledge and insights you give us. I truly wish I could return the favor. Your choices of poems and what they meant to you are prime examples. Believe it or not but I have a Menorah, the gift of a friend from childhood to this day. It stays on my mantle and since I met you here one of its candles is lit for you.

    Gaines
     
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  16. wm.

    wm. Active Member

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    As Flak Goes By

    Usually, it's said the author is unknown, but according to Cleveland in World War II it was written by B-17 radio operator and gunner Joe Korosec.
    He flew twenty seven combat missions, on his last mission his plane was shot down, only Korosec and another crew member survived.


    You must remember this
    That flak don't always miss
    And one of you may die.
    The fundamental thing applies
    As flak goes by.

    And When the fighters come
    You hope you're not the one
    To tumble from the sky
    The odds are always too damned high
    As flak goes by.

    110's and 210's knocking at your gate
    Come on you jokers, come on kill that rate
    And should a bomb hang, salvo don't wait
    The targets passing by.

    It's still the same old story
    A tale that's too damned gory
    Some brave men have to die
    The odds are always high
    As flak goes by.
     
  17. MichaelBully

    MichaelBully Member

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    Great to see the new posts and sorry fore the delay in responding. I have been spending time preparing my new blog 'A Burnt Ship' about 17th century war poetry and war related literature. But I want to organise time to keep the World War 2 poetry blog going.
    Ron - interested in the 'Master Wace' poem. Also pleased to be directed to Jeremy Robson's work. In fact I am going to contact him and to see if I could reproduce part of it on the World War 2 poetry blog. Was reading about the 'Jazz and Poetry' tours in the biography of WW2 serving ( and deserter) poet Vernon Scannell - 'Walking Wounded- The Life & Poetry of Vernon Scannell' by James Andrew Taylor. Vernon Scannell was amongst the performers in an number of tours in the 1960's/1970's. Spike Milligan was another Desert War veteran who sometimes appeared. Interesting to read that Jeremy Robson was also involved in similar events.
    Regards
     
  18. MichaelBully

    MichaelBully Member

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    Good evening , again apologise for how slow things are moving in respect of the World War 2 poetry blog. My other blog 'A Burnt Ship' ( about 17th century war related poetry and prose ) taking up a lot of my spare time.
    However I have been writing a new post about British poems from 1940. Thought that with 'Darkest Hour' movie, might be worth looking at. Will be published soon as in the next few days.

    Another post about the work of German poet Johannes Bobrowski is being worked on.

    Furthermore, I was at the National Poetry Library yesterday and found an anthology titled 'The Stars Anthology of Poems For The Burma Star Association'
    Boston and North Cambridgeshire Branch, published by Richard Kay, Boston, Lincs, 1990
    Have borrowed said collection, and started to read it.

    The collection appears on the publisher's website
    The Stars, Anthology of Poems for the Burma Star Association by HE (Sandy) Williams
     
  19. MichaelBully

    MichaelBully Member

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    And finally
    Have updated the World War 2 poetry blog to look at poetry from 1940 . Featuring Bertolt Brecht along with three women poets from Britain, Lilian Bowes-Lyon, Prudence MacDonald and Joan Barton WorldWar2poetry.blogspot.co.uk

    As a taster will share the first 3 verses of Brecht's '1940'

    1.
    "Spring is coming.The gentle winds
    Are freeing the cliffs of their winter ice.
    Trembling, the peoples of the north await
    The battle fleets of the house-painter.

    11.
    Out of the libraries
    Emerge the butchers.
    Pressing their children closer
    Mothers stand and humbly search
    The skies for the inventions of learned men.

    III
    The designers sit
    Hunched in the drawing offices:
    One wrong figure, and the enemy's cities
    Will remain Undestroyed. "


    The whole poem doesn't seem to be on line but verse VI is quoted quite regularly.


    " My young son asks me: Must I learn mathematics?
    What is the use, I feel like saying. That two pieces
    Of bread are more than one's about all you'll end up with.
    My young son asks me: Must I learn French?
    What is the use, I feel like saying. This State's collapsing.
    And if you just rub your belly with your hand and
    Groan, you'll be understood with little trouble.
    My young son asks me: Must I learn history?
    What is the use, I feel like saying. Learn to stick
    Your head in the earth, and maybe you'll still survive.

    Yes, learn mathematics, I tell him.
    Learn your French, learn your history! "

    Though Brecht's 'How Fortunate The Man With None' is one of my favourite ever poems, there's a lot of his work that doesn't appeal to me.
     
    Last edited: Mar 30, 2018
  20. MichaelBully

    MichaelBully Member

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    Blog updated featuring German poets Johannes Bobrowski and Gertrud Kolmar . Bobrowski wrote a poem, published in 1962, dedicated to Jewish Gertrud Kolmar , who died at Auschwitz. Interesting to have a former German Soldier , and one time Soviet Prisoner of War, approaching this subject. Bobrowski was considered rehabilitated as a DDR citizen, and was favoured as a poet and writer, dying there in 1965. He started to get read outside the DDR as from 1960.

    http://Worldwar2poetry.blogspot.co.uk



    'Gerturd Kolmar'

    Beech, bloody in leaf,

    in smoking depth bitter

    the shadows, the door above

    of shouting magpies.



    There a girl walked,

    a girl with smooth hair,

    the plain under her lids

    glanced up, her step

    was lost in the marches.



    But the dark time

    is not dead, my speech

    wanders and is

    rusty with blood.



    Were I to remember you;

    I stepped in front of the beech,

    I have commanded the magpie:

    Be silent, they come, who were

    here-if I remembered:

    We shall not die, we shall

    be girded about with towers."
     

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