'Shelter Experiments' John Piper 1943
IWM ART LD 3859 in public domain courtesy of the IWM/
I was recently reminded of the 'Earth Voices Whispering- An anthology of Irish War Poetry 1914-1945' edited by Gerald Dawes, published in 2008. It was intriguing to find poems by Sean Jennett included, who doesn't seem to have been included in any anthologies since 'Poetry of the Forties-introduced and edited by Robin Skelton' (1968) .
Also managed to locate Jennett's collection 'Always Adam' from 1943, from the National Poetry Library, at the Southbank Centre, which contains 51 poems, written from 1935 onward.
Sean Jennett, who worked for Faber & Faber' as a typographer during World war 2, who has been added to the ranks of 1940's 'neglected' poets. His Wikipedia entry consists of three sentences , maintaining that he was born in 1912- and died in 1981, wrote 'The 'Making of Books ' in 1951 and went on to write travel books. The British Library online catalogue confirms this, with 'The Making of Boooks' seeing several editions.
We talked of war with light and easy lips,
jesting upon our action, this or that,
if it came to the last, and while we chattered
we drank our coffee in delicious sips
and watched the soft, contented cafe cat.
But then the woman in the wicker chair
cried Havoc! and suddenly I was afire
because I saw, under the skirts of light,
the corpses of our laughter and delight
smashed and dismembered, bloodily bespattered
across the red carpet....
And still the solemn stare
of all the sleepy cats in Oxfordshire
One of the most interesting pre-war poems about World War 2 - if such a genre is possible. The strange reflection of an unreal sedate world detached from the reality of war that is about to strike them. The motif-'Cry havoc and unleash the dogs of war' from Shakespeare's 'Julius Caesar', was repeated in Beverley Nichols book 'Cry Havoc' from 1934, advocating Pacifism, a stance Nichols was later to reject.
XLII. AUTUMN 1940
The days were glorious- we remember that
because the clear September of that year
was good for bombers. We remember it
because the sky screamed and we were mere
items of wreckage in the ruined day,
the half- face or the limbless or the dead.
the convenient basis for the hero's fame,
the rescued in the hospital bed.
I was the man in the collapsing tower.
I was the body in the flooded shelter.
I was the mad objector shifting stone,
the conscious saint arising in his hour.
I was the bomber, the breaker and the welder
I was the shattered and the exulting son.
Strange understatement -September 7th 1940 is of course accepted as the first day of the London Blitz.
Best wishes for 2019 to all Blog visitors from round the world . Have written an article on British World War 2 poetry for 'Everyone's War' , the magazine published by the Second World War Experience Centre.
I am working on a further post for the companion blog to this one A Burnt Ship -devoted to 17th century war & literature.
And hoping to write a longer article on Timothy Corsellis for Worldwarpoetry.com