Skip to main content

The Blitz: 70 Years Later

The famous Blitz on Britain from German aerial bombardment began 70 years today.  Few events in the West's 20th century have remained as vivid, as imprinted on a culture's imagination.  A fortnight before, Allied planes had bombed Berlin, triggering the counter-attack (both sides went on increasingly to explore the idea of a "total war" from the skies, culminating in the fire-bombing of Dresden; then Japan) - one of my great-uncles flew on the RAF bombing raids over Germany; many of my relations died in Coventry, which some claim Churchill let be destroyed to conceal broken codes for strategic purposes.

Perhaps, in the popular imagination, the Blitz is most omnipresent in the following: the documentaries of Jennings, such as Fires Were Started; references in novels (such as when the Narnia children are sent to the countryside); and in the poems of WWII.  Most famous of these Blitz poems must be Dylan Thomas's 'A Refusal To Mourn the Death, by Fire, of a Child in London'.  And many films, from The Life and Times of Colonel Blimp onwards, have returned to these moments.  After the Blitz, there is no other?

Interest does not fade - Bomber County is a new book by Daniel Swift (no relation) - which has as its thesis the rather stale (if popular) misconception that there are "no poets of the Second World War" - when obviously, the great poems of Thomas, FT Prince, Keith Douglas, TS Eliot, Lynette Roberts, and many others establish otherwise (and have been anthologised on several previous occasions).  Larkin, Amis and the Movement turned against the raised emotionality of this period when they emerged as serious figures in the mid-50s, betraying a high point with characteristic irony and indifference - paradoxically precisely the sang froid that allowed the "Blitz spirit" to arise.

Comments

I arrived in England, a refugee from Austria, in May 1939. When the Blitz began, I was two years old, and the memories are indelible. This poem is from my first collection, A Cracked River (Slow Dancer Press, London 1999).

MY FIRST HOUSE

The closet lodged under the stair -
we huddled
in the dark all night, listening
for warplanes. Because I was two,
they held me too tight. A large,

hard table crowded the room
where I slept. We clustered
beneath when buzz-bombs
stopped their whine. I must
have been three. I hardly cried.

In back, the kitchen: coal stove, a stone
sink where my mother soured the milk.
At four, I loved the smell of roasting
potatoes. Curtained French doors

led to the garden – a pear tree,
a plum tree, crab apple.
Baby apples, my father said.
I was five. A hole

in the garden lay covered by dirt
and rippled tin. We slept there until
the All-Clear. I was
as old as the whole war. Trains

roared past our garden: colossal,
reckless, going somewhere important, America.
I was six. I told the postman
to send our letters to America.

They told me my name
was Bertie (just like the King’s). They told me
my name was Henson. In America they
turned me into a Norbert. And oh yes,
Hirschhorn, not Henson. Then I was seven.
Dalirockshick said…
can I use this picture, I wrote a song on this subject. Going to be on youtube. Is now on soundclick, Lost House, zackota.

Popular posts from this blog

Review of the new Simple Minds album - Walk Between Worlds

Taste is a matter of opinion - or so goes one opinion. Aesthetics, a branch of pistols at dawn, is unlikely to become unruffled and resolved any time soon, and meantime it is possible to argue, in this post-post-modern age, an age of voter rage, that political opinion trumps taste anyway. We like what we say is art. And what we say is art is what likes us.

Simple Minds - the Scottish band founded around 1977 with the pale faces and beautiful cheekbones, and perfect indie hair cuts - comes from a time before that - from a Glasgow of poverty and working-class socialism, and religiosity, in a pre-Internet time when the heights of modernity were signalled by Kraftwerk, large synthesisers, and dancing like Bowie at 3 am in a Berlin club.

To say that early Simple Minds was mannered is like accusing Joyce of being experimental. Doh. The band sought to merge the icy innovations of German music with British and American pioneers of glam and proto-punk, like Iggy Pop; their heroes were contrived,…

THE WINNER OF THE SIXTH FORTNIGHT PRIZE IS...



Wheeler Light for 'Life Jacket'.

The runner-up is: Daniel Duffy - 'President Returns To New York For Brief First Visit'

Wheeler Light currently lives in Boulder, Colorado.



Life Jacket

summer camp shirtsI couldn’t fit in then
are half my size nowI wanted to wear
smaller and smallerarticles of clothing
I shrunk to the sizethat disappeared

of an afterthoughtin a sinking ship body
too buoyant to sinktoo waterlogged for land
I becamea dot of sand

THE BEVERLY PRIZE SUPER SHORTLIST FINALISED!

Dr Bruce Meyer, a significant Canadian poet and writer, will be the final judge for this year's Beverly Prize For International Writing - the impressive super shortlist of 18 international poets and writers is announced below.
Any original unpublished manuscript, in English, by anyone living anywhere in the world, writing in any genre or on any topic, prose, non-fiction or poetry (even drama) is eligible, making it arguably the world's most eclectic "broad church" literary scouting prize. Last year's debut winner was Sohini Basak (her book is being launched in Bloomsbury July 5th, 2018).

The rules of the prize stipulate that any author chosen for the shortlist agrees to accept publication with Eyewear if judged to be the final winner; and may not be entered into other competitions at this final stage of adjudication.
Bruce Meyer is author of more than 60 books of poetry, short fiction, non-fiction, literary journalism, and portraiture. He was winner of the Gwendolyn…