I am so at home in Dublin, more than any other city, that I feel it has always been familiar to me. It took me years to see through its soft charm to its bitter prickly kernel - which I quite like too.

Home Uncategorized Wartime Voices

Wartime Voices

Gerald Dawe
The Great War, The Waste Land and the Modernist Long Poem, by Oliver Tearle, Bloomsbury, 200 pp, ISBN. 978-350027015 After the deluge of books, documentaries and exhibitions, conferences, commemorations and public events to mark the hundredth anniversary of the conclusion of World War I there is something affirming in returning to texts of poems written just before, during and somewhat after the mammoth events which shook European society to its very core. Oliver Tearle has done a good and timely job on bringing his reader back into the micro-climate of the poetry produced at the time by some of the twentieth century giants such as TS Eliot and Ezra Pound and their lesser known (today) contemporaries, including Ford Madox Ford (Antwerp, 1915), Hope Mirrlees (Paris: A Poem, 1920), Richard Aldington, (A Fool I’ the Forest: A Phantasmagoria (1925) – from As You Like It: “A fool, a fool! I met a fool i’ the forest, / A motley fool; a miserable world!”) and Nancy Cunard, (Parallax, 1925). It is a brave choice because I am not sure this work would be that well-known or read outside academic circles. But working along the seams of historical reality and cultural assumptions, Tearle finds an accessible route to highlight the key critical point that neither The Waste Land or Hugh Selwyn Mauberley are without precedent or poetic parallels in the first three decades of the last century. It is his way of finding the links between what the war produced as social and political reality and the vulnerable places poets found to structurally and aesthetically inhabit that often terrible truth which makes this study well worth reading, in spite of some treading of water in the rehearsal of argument. This is Tearle connecting the big picture of displacement with the effort of Ford Madox Ford to render what had been going on beyond the zones of trench warfare during the early part of the war: Ford’s ‘Antwerp’ also prefigures The Waste Land in focussing on the fact that the war had displaced and uprooted vast numbers of people from their homes: section VI of ‘Antwerp’ depicts Belgian refugees in London. Some 250,000 refugees fled the country and came to the capital following the invasion. He then goes on to quote these lines from the poem: A great crowd, all black that hardly whispers aloud. Surely, that is a dead woman – a dead mother! She has a dead face; She is…

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