Sunday, 29 April 2018
Thomas Rahilley Hodgson 1915 -1941 'This Life This Death'
A longer version of this article has now appeared on the WorldWarPoetry.com
Michael Bully, 11th November 2018
'Blue Runway Study' by Alexander Johnson
Used with kind permission of the artist.
Thomas Rahilley Hodgson, Pilot Officer RAF Volunteer Reserve, was killed in action on 17th May 1941 aged 25. He was survived by his parents and his wife. Hodgson is listed on the Runnymede memorial , which commemorate around 20,000 individuals who served with the RAF during World War 2 and had no known grave.
In 1943, a collection of his poems titled ' This Life This Death' was published by Routledge, London. Hodgson had been writing poetry since 1932, and only seven out of the fifty-five poems could strictly be called 'war poems'.
It is not known how many of his poems were published in his life time but Hodgson's poetry has been included in two crucial World War 2 poetry anthologies,'The Terrible Rain ' and 'I Burn For England' .
Robert Graves has been quoted as stating "No war poetry can be expected from the Royal Air Force"
( source Daniel Swift -'Bomber County') .
Certainly seems that World War 2 War in the Air poetry is even less known that its land and sea counterparts. One exception is Timothy Corsellis (1921- 1941 ), who served in the RAF for only a
matter of months in 1941, produced a couple of highly reclaimed poems such as 'Dawn After The Raid' and 'News Reel of Embarkation .' His work was anthologised in eleven anthologies of war poetry. In 2014 the 'Timothy Corsellis Prize' was established by the Poetry Society, in conjunction with the War Poets Association and the Imperial War Museum, to encourage young people aged 14- 25 to write poetry about World II.
Two poems worthy of note are 'Searchlights Over Berlin' , written before the Allies saturation bombing of Germany started. Hodgson indicated being part of the War effort couldn't be explained -"And he is rising mad who searches here for meaning."
Searchlights Over Berlin
"Their silver scalpels probe the wound of night
seeking out doom, a death
to death. And now
no highflung phrase, no braggart
gesture of the hand or jaw
can still the double fear. Who fly
ten thousand feet about in the shrill dark
are linked with those who cover
under earth to hear, vague as sea
upon an island wind. the murmur
which is, for some
eternity, for some
And he is rising mad who searches here
Whilst 'It is Death Now We Look Upon " , commemorates a similar lack of meaning. Death is the ultimate negation of life, there is no value placed on dying whilst fighting in a war .
Both poems are bleak, and without a clever subtext, and not a single word is wasted. There's probably little to be gained in trying to analyse them. There is a strange sense of loss of self, when faced by the sheer enormity of the War.
It is Death Now We Look Upon.
murmurous the river-
which is a memory -
it is death now we look upon.
hands have no meaning
eyes no longer speak
sorrow like a dream
out of the dusk remembering
it is death now we look upon .
call home the old,
and let him lie
lapped in their shaken
call home tomorrow's quick
the beautiful, the glad,
Call home the children
we have made
but shall we not know.
Cancel all tears,
and let all love
that pain we may ease,
it is death now we look upon."
More artwork from Alexander Johnson : Alexander has been working on a World War 2 related art projects and is also inspired by his father' s service as a pilot during the War.
A Burnt Ship A blog about Stuart era poetry and prose related to warfare . Companion blog to this one.
Timothy Corsellis Page maintained on the 'Discover War Poets' website.
Copies of 'This Life This Death' can still be found on Amazon UK but the book has been out of print for decades now.
'The Terrible Rain : War Poets 1939- 1945 , an anthology selected and arranged by Brian Gardner' , Magnum Books, 1977
'I Burn for England . An Anthology of the poetry of World War II Selected and Introduced by Charles Hamblett, Leslie Frewin, 1966
'Bomber County The Lost Airman of World War 2 ' , Daniel Swift, Hamish Hamilton , 2010.
Wednesday, 11 April 2018
Johannes Bobrowski's tribute to Gertud Kolmar ( Gertrud Kathe Chodziesner )
I have previously posted about Johannes Bobrowski ( 1917- 1965) - and recently went back to 'Shadowlands', the 1966 translation of his work from German by Ruth and Mathew Meads, which was republished in 1984 . After being accepted in his native DDR as a rehabilitated Soviet Prisoner of War and a respected poet, Bobrowski was gradually getting noticed in the West from around 1960 onward. And the East German regime were prepared to grant him some permission to travel.
'Shadowlands' included a poem titled 'Gerturd Kolmar' : Certainly strange to have Bobrowski, a former German soldier writing a tribute to a Jewish woman poet who didn't survive the holocaust. The poem was first published in a collected titled 'Shadowland Rivers' from 1962, which also contains two poems ' Else Lasker-Schuler ' ( 1869-1945) and 'To Nelly Sachs' (1891- 1970) , who were both German women of Jewish descent.
An ode Bobrowski wrote about Thomas Chatterton ( 1752- 1770), the forerunner of the English Romantic poets, is a surprising choice .Though Bobrowski shared a huge reverence for Nature with the Romantics, his poetry was largely quite clipped and sparse in its use of words, perhaps having more in common with early 20th century Imagism.
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."
Johannes Bobrowski ( from 'Shadowlands)
Gertrud Kathe Chodziesner/Gertrud Kolmar ( 10th December 1894- deported March 1943)
Gertrud Kolmar's legacy of 450 poems, two short stories, and three plays. Personal papers and other works were destroyed at the time of her arrest. Her literary career had a promising start with her first collection published in 1917, and was frequent published throughout the 1920's, and a second collection appeared in 1934. But a third volume of poetry was suppressed by the Nazi regime in 1938, and in 1941 Gertud Kolmar became a forced labourer in the armaments industry. On 27th February 1943, Gertud was arrested by the SS and deported to Auschwitz on 2nd March 1943, her exact date of death is not known. Interest has steadily grown in her work.
I am not sure of the date that 'The Female Poet' was written. I think that appeared from 1936 -1938 .
The incredible sense of being helpless against the course of history -'My heart beats like a frightened little bird's' and ' whispering to the wind' /'This shall not be' is so brilliantly . Or perhaps the poet is simply referring to being overwhelmed by a love affair. And the closing line " You hear me speak/But do you hear me feel ? " is spoken thinly to a party that is just not interested.
The Female Poet ( 'Die Dichterin ' )
You hold me now completely in your hands.
My heart beats like a frightened little bird's
Against your palm. Take heed! You do not think
A person lives within the page you thumb.
To you this book is paper, cloth, and ink,
Some binding thread and glue, and thus is dumb,
And cannot touch you (though the gaze be great
That seeks you from the printed marks inside),
And is an object with an object's fate.
And yet it has been veiled like a bride,
Adorned with gems, made ready to be loved,
Who asks you bashfully to change your mind,
To wake yourself, and feel, and to be moved.
But still she trembles, whispering to the wind:
"This shall not be." And smiles as if she knew.
Yet she must hope. A woman always tries,
Her very life is but a single "You . . ."
With her black flowers and her painted eyes,
With silver chains and silks of spangled blue.
She knew more beauty when a child and free,
But now forgets the better words she knew.
A man is so much cleverer than we,
Conversing with himself of truth and lie,
Of death and spring and iron-work and time.
But I say "you" and always "you and I."
This book is but a girl's dress in rhyme,
Which can be rich and red, or poor and pale,
Which may be wrinkled, but with gentle hands,
And only may be torn by loving nails.
So then, to tell my story, here I stand.
The dress's tint, though bleached in bitter lye,
Has not all washed away. It still is real.
I call then with a thin, ethereal cry.
You hear me speak. But do you hear me feel?
-Gertrud Kolmar ( translated by Translated by Henry A Smith )
Taken from the All Poetry entry for Gertrud Kolmar
Most Indebted to the Jewish Women's Archive feature on Gertrud Kolmar .
And also to Lucy London 's feature on Gertrud Kolmar Female Poets of the First World War blog
Finally, must just mention the Stuart era companion blog to this one A burnt ship