"Murray is the best kind of literary biographer" – The Financial Times.
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Winner of the 2015 Basil Bunting Award for poetry

Tuesday, 24 February 2009

Humility and the Poets

I was in Arras at the weekend and walked out (in defiance of the tourist office who said it could not be done except at the wheel of a car) to Bailleul Road East Cemetery where the poet Isaac Rosenberg is buried.  A few weeks before he died he wrote (the reference is to a poem by Walt Whitman which remained his gold standard for war poetry): "I have written a few war poems but when I think of 'Drum Taps' mine are absurd."  They are not absurd and ("Break of Day in the Trenches") among the best.  Just a stone's throw away is the (far more populous) German cemetery where several Jewish headstones can be seen among the stark rows of iron crosses.  A rather concrete poem about 'the futility of war'?

PS I would recommend anyone who is interested in war poetry to keep a watchful eye on Tim Kendall's War Poetry blog.  Indispensable.

1 comment:

Andrew K said...

But those who make war presumably see nothing futile about it. They revel in it- a celebration, an orgy of delights. As Beckett writes in that collection you recently mentioned, "By their god they were most correct."