Wednesday, December 24, 2014

The Christmas Truce

Jünger, Ernst. Storm of Steel. 1920. Rev. ed. 1961. Trans. Michael Hofmann. Allen Lane. London: Penguin, 2003.
I recently bought a copy of Ernst Jünger's Storm of Steel [In Stahlgewittern] (1920), one of those great classic First World War memoirs I'd heard of but never read. The translator, poet Michael Hofmann, after making a number of cracks about the howlers in the only previous English translation (by Basil Creighton - in 1929), claims that "unlike any of the other World War I books I've read, Storm of Steel has found its way into natural epic form" (p.xviii).

He also discusses the book's immensely protracted genesis: how it evolved from the original, heavily diaristic version published in 1920, through the "Nationalist" text of 1924 (the one translated by Creighton), then the more toned-down, nuanced narrative of 1934 (the only one available to the Nazis, who revered Jünger, though he did not return the favour), until its final substantive rewriting for the first edition of his Collected Works in 1961.

Ernst Jünger: Storm of Steel (1920)

Hofmann sees this multiplicity of texts as a distinct advantage:
The inspiration of most of the English [war memoirs] is lyrical or dramatic; they work with one-off contrasts and ironies; they fear repetition or excess of detail. They begin as they mean to go on, with misfortunes and reverses: [Robert] Graves shelled by his own artillery; [Edmund] Blunden's grenade instructor blowing himself up with a bad grenade; [Siegfried] Sassoon breaking a leg while riding before he ever gets to France. There is something bleakly - bracingly - comic about all three. … Storm of Steel leaves all that behind.
Certainly Hofmann is correct when he says that "there is nothing comic about Jünger whatsoever." Let's take that famous episode of the "Christmas truce," for example. Perhaps the most famous description of this is in Robert Graves's short story "Christmas Truce" (first published in the Saturday Evening Post in 1962, and subsequently included in his Collected Short Stories (1965): 99-115).

First, here's Jünger's account of Christmas 1915, from his chapter "Daily Life in the Trenches":
As Christmas approached, the weather seemed to worsen; we had recourse to pumps in our efforts to do something about the water. ["had recourse to" sounds like rather clumsy English to me: "were forced to use" would be my suggestion for something a bit more idiomatic. I wouldn't stress such a point if it weren't for the rather remorseless hatchet job Hofmann does (pp. xiv-xvi) on Creighton's earlier translation. His own seems to veer strangely between the wildly colloquial and the stiff and pedantic, but for all I know that's an accurate reflection of Jünger's prose style in German - Ed.] During this muddy phase, our losses also worsened …

We spent Christmas Eve in the line, and, standing in the mud, sang hymns, to which the British responded with machine-gun fire. On Christmas Day, we lost one man to a ricochet in the head. Immediately afterwards, the British attempted a friendly gesture by hauling a Christmas tree up on their traverse, but our angry troops quickly shot it down again, to which Tommy replied with rifle-grenades. it was all in all a less than merry Christmas. [pp. 58-59]

Robert Graves: Collected Short Stories (1965)

Graves, Robert. Collected Short Stories. 1965. Harmondsworth: Penguin, n.d.
Let's contrast this with Graves's version. Well, first of all, there's a frame-story. A couple of old soldiers are educating Stanley the "Polytechnic student", who's asked them to accompany him on a "Ban the Bomb" march. Impatient with their attitude, Stan bursts out:
"Oh, can it, Grandfather! ... You're a professional pessimist And you didn't hate the Germans even when you were fighting them - in spite of the newspapers. What about that Christmas Truce?" [p.101]
But the point, according to them, is not so much the "Christmas truce" itself, as its follow-up the year after:
"Tell this lad about the two Christmas truces," I said [to his mate Dodger Green, who's just dropped by], "He's trying to enlist us for a march to Moscow, or somewhere."
Stan's grandfather was wounded in hospital at the time, so he saw nothing of the complex festivities, football games, magic show, slap-up feed, which Dodger describes. Even then, in 1914, there were exceptions:
the Prussians weren't having any. Nor were some English regiments: such as the East Lancs on our right flank and the Sherwood Foresters on the left - when the Fritzes came out with white flags, they fired over their heads and waved 'em back. But they didn't interfere with our party. It was worse in the French line: them Frogs machine-gunned all the "Merry Christmas" parties … Of course, the French go in for New Year celebrations more than Christmas. [pp. 105-6]
When it came to Christmas 1915, however, Stan's grandfather takes up the tale:
"Keep in your trenches, Wessex!" [Colonel Pomeroy] shouted over his shoulder. And [Major Coburg] gave the same orders to his lot.

"After jabbering a bit they agreed that any bloke who'd attended the 1914 party would be allowed out of trenches, but none of the rest - they could only trust us regular soldiers. Regulars, you see, know the rules of war and don't worry their heads about politics nor propaganda; them Duration blokes sickened us sometimes with their patriotism and their lofty skiting, and their hatred of 'the Teuton foe' as one of 'em called the Fritzes." [p.112]
The party this time is a disaster. One of the British soldiers seizes the opportunity to take revenge for "a brother killed at Loos" [p.114]. Even though he only wounds rather than killing the German officer he shoots, the damage is done. The British colonel is court-martialled, and there is no further fraternising between the two sides. Stan's grandfather's conclusion is a pessimistic one:
"Now listen, lad: if two real old-fashioned gentlemen like Colonel Pomeroy and Major Coburg - never heard of him again, but I doubt if he survived, having the guts he had - if two real men like them two couldn't hope for a their Christmas Truce in the days when 'mankind', as you call 'em, was still a little bit civilised, tell me, what can you hope for now?" [p.115]
Dodger, however, has a less gloomy take on the whole affair: "… don't listen to your Grand-dad. Don't be talked out of your beliefs! He's one of the Old and Bold, but maybe he's no wiser nor you and I."

Hofmann's commendation of what he sees as the "Homeric" reticence of Jünger's version comes, in part, from its chronology:
As well as being one of the earliest books on World War I ["published long before the likes of Blunden, Graves, Remarque and Sassoon, all of which appeared in the later 1920s, at a classic ten-year distance from the events they describe, giving their public and themselves time to recover" (p.viii)], Storm of Steel is also one of the newest, and it seems likely that it gained in both respects. If one might put it like this, in addition to outflanking the competition by getting in ahead of them, Storm of Steel also outlasted them: the experience it offers the reader is both more immediate and more considered, more naively open-ended and more artistically complex, more Sartre-ish and more - what shall I say? - Paterian. [p.xiii]
Now it's certainly true that the contrast between Jünger's and Graves's version of Christmas 1915 does not come out heavily in favour of the latter. Graves's story is a bit neat, a bit magazine-ish, which is possibly why he did not include any of this material in his own "classic" war memoir, Good-bye to All That (1929 - also heavily revised in its 1957 edition, which rather makes nonsense of Hofmann's claims for the superior "consideration" Jünger was able to give his own book).

But one can't really have it all ways at once. Having read this encomium on Jünger's epic, it came as a bit of a shock to turn to the book itself. Even Hofmann grants that "Sometimes the progress seems slow and a little lumbering," combining all the various elements of the narrative into "one great narcotic experience." It is, not to put too fine a point on it, quite a boring book. At first, at any rate - certainly to readers used to the "one-off contrasts and ironies" of Graves, Sassoon and Blunden: their sheer story-telling ability, in other words.

This is not to say that I don't see Hofmann's point. There is a cumulative effect to Jünger's writing which is quite different to that of the great English and French memoirists and novelists of the war - different, too, from other German authors such as Erich Maria Remarque or Arnold Zweig. But "Sartre-ish and … Paterian"! Is he relying on the fact that no-one really reads Marius the Epicurean anymore, let alone Pater's less well-known works (with the possible exception of that one piece of prose poetry about the Mona Lisa which Yeats re-lineated and included in his Oxford Book of Modern Verse)? Hofmann himself admits:
I could never understand, unless it was for doctrinal political reasons, why Sartre, asked about Jünger, said merely: "I hate him." [p. xx]
Well, duh! Whatever the complexities of his relations with the Nazis, the fact that a good many of his problems with them stemmed from the fact that they weren't nationalistic enough (a bit like Heidegger, who saw Hitler and his mob of thugs as too "compromised by modernity" to preserve the purity of their Germanic ideals) might have something to do with explaining why so prominent an anti-fascist as Sartre might quite simply hate a silly old fool like Ernst Jünger.

Storm of Steel may or may not be a great book. It's certainly an interesting book - though frighteningly unreflective about the larger implications of the communal bloodletting Ernst and his comrades are indulging in (perhaps the "Homeric" quality Hofmann detects so readily in it comes more from the moral and ethical blindness displayed by the narrator than from any true approach to the unsentimental - though not, I would argue unfeeling - objectivity of the author of the Iliad).

I can't accept that it is any real rival to the great war memoirs of Blunden, Graves and Sassoon - or, for that matter, for the poetry of Wilfred Owen, Isaac Rosenberg or Edward Thomas. Their humanity and compassion continues to speak to us over the century that has elapsed since the first Christmas Truce (if such an event ever really took place, except symbolically). Jünger, for me, is more of a horrible warning - of what happens when you subtract those elements from a person, either through nature or nurture, but instead simply train him to kill and be killed.

It's possible, then, that Hofmann is right, and Jünger has more to say to us this Christmas, as the Ukraine burns and ISIL marches on the beleaguered ancient cities of Mesopotamia, about the true nature of humanity right here, right now. I don't agree with his implicit denigration of Robert Graves and the other "English memoirists" as at least equally valid commentators on the nature of war, though. What's more, when one considers that Graves published his first book of war poems in 1916, and his last stories on the subject of the war in the 1960s, Hofmann's arguments for Jünger's "outflanking the competition" begin to look a bit flimsy, also.

Robert Graves: A Dead Boche (1916)

Here's a list of some classic WWI books from my collection (I haven't bothered to include very much fiction in this list, though of course Hemingway's A Farewell to Arms, Ford's Parade's End, and - more recently - Pat Barker's Regeneration Trilogy are all potentially relevant: not to mention well worth reading - or rereading, for that matter):
    Richard Aldington (1892–1962)

  1. Death of a Hero: A Novel. 1929. The Phoenix Library. London: Chatto and Windus, 1932.
  2. The Complete Poems. London: Allan Wingate (Publishers) Limited, 1948.

  3. Henri Barbusse (1873-1935)

  4. Under Fire: The Story of a Squad / Light. 1916 & 1919. Trans. Fitzwater Wray. London & Toronto: J. M. Dent & Sons Ltd., 1929.

  5. Edmund Blunden (1896-1974)

  6. Undertones of War. 1928. London: Penguin, 1937.
  7. The Poems: 1914-30. London: Cobden-Sanderson, 1930.

  8. Rupert Brooke (1887-1915)

  9. Marsh, Edward, ed. The Collected Poems of Rupert Brooke: With a Memoir. 1918. London: Sidgwick & Jackson, Ltd., 1920.
  10. 1914 and Other Poems. London: Faber, 1941.
  11. The Complete Poems. 1932. London: Sidgwick & Jackson Limited / Melbourne: Hicks, Smith & Wright, 1944.
  12. Keynes, Geoffrey, ed. The Poetical Works of Rupert Brooke. 1946. Faber Paper Covered Editions. London: Faber, 1974.

  13. Robert Graves (1895-1985)

  14. Over the Brazier. 1916. Poetry Reprint Series, 1. London: St. James Press / New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1975.
  15. Lawrence and the Arabs. Illustrations ed. Eric Kennington. Maps by Herry Perry. London: Jonathan Cape Ltd., 1927.
  16. Good-bye to All That: An Autobiography. 1929. London: Jonathan Cape, 1929.
  17. Good-bye to All That. 1929. Rev. ed. 1957. Penguin Modern Classics. Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1973.
  18. Collected Short Stories. 1965. Harmondsworth: Penguin, n.d.
  19. In Broken Images: Selected Letters 1914-1946. Ed. Paul O'Prey. London: Hutchinson, 1982.
  20. Seymour-Smith, Martin. Robert Graves: His Life and Work. 1982. Abacus. London: Sphere Books Ltd., 1983.
  21. Graves, Richard Perceval. Robert Graves: The Assault Heroic, 1895-1926. London: George Weidenfeld and Nicolson Limited, 1986.
  22. Seymour, Miranda. Robert Graves: Life on the Edge. 1995. Doubleday. London: Transworld Publishers Ltd., 1996.

  23. Ivor Gurney (1890-1937)

  24. Collected Poems. Ed. P. J. Kavanagh. 1982. Manchester: Carcanet, 2004.

  25. Jaroslav Hašek (1883-1923)

  26. The Good Soldier Schweik. Trans. Paul Selver. Illustrations by Josef Lada. 1930. Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1952.
  27. The Good Soldier Švejk and His Fortunes in the World War. Trans. Cecil Parrott. Illustrations by Josef Lada. 1973. Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1978.
  28. The Red Commissar: Including Further Adventures of the Good Soldier Švejk and Other Stories. Trans. Cecil Parrott. Illustrations by Josef Lada. 1981. London: Abacus, 1983.
  29. Parrott, Sir Cecil. The Bad Bohemian: A Life of Jaroslav Hašek, Creator of the Good Soldier Švejk. 1978. London: Abacus, 1983.

  30. David Jones (1895-1974)

  31. In Parenthesis: seinnyessit e gledyf ym penn mameu. 1937. London: Faber, 1963.
  32. Hague, René, ed. Dai Greatcoat: A Self-portrait of David Jones in his Letters. London: Faber, 1980.
  33. Matthias, John, ed. Introducing David Jones: A Selection of His Writings. Preface by Stephen Spender. London: Faber, 1980.
  34. Blissett, William. The Long Conversation: A Memoir of David Jones. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1981.

  35. T. E. Lawrence (1888–1935)

  36. Seven Pillars of Wisdom: A Triumph. 1926. London: Jonathan Cape Ltd., 1946.
  37. Revolt in the Desert. New York: Garden City Publishing Company Inc., 1927.
  38. Garnett, David, ed. The Essential T. E. Lawrence. 1951. Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1956.
  39. Garnett, David, ed. The Letters of T. E. Lawrence. London: Jonathan Cape Ltd., 1938.
  40. Thomas, Lowell. With Lawrence in Arabia. London: Hutchinson & Co. (Publishers), Ltd., 1924.
  41. Liddell Hart, B. H. ‘T. E. Lawrence’: In Arabia and After. London: Jonathan Cape Ltd., 1934.
  42. Lawrence, A. W., ed. T. E. Lawrence by His Friends. 1937. London: Jonathan Cape Ltd., 1938.
  43. Aldington, Richard. Lawrence of Arabia: A Biographical Enquiry. London: Collins, 1955.
  44. Mack, John E. A Prince of Our Disorder: The Life of T. E. Lawrence. 1976. New Preface by the Author. Cambridge, Mass: Harvard University Press, 1998.
  45. Wilson, Jeremy. Lawrence of Arabia: The Authorised Biography of T. E. Lawrence. 1989. Minerva. London: Mandarin Paperbacks, 1990.

  46. Francis Ledwidge (1887–1917)

  47. The Complete Poems. Introduction by Lord Dunsany. 1919. London: Herbert Jenkins Limited, 1955.

  48. C. S. Lewis [as 'Clive Hamilton'] (1898–1963)

  49. Spirits in Bondage (1919). In C. S. Lewis. Collected Poems. Ed. Walter Hooper. 1919, 1964. London: Fount Paperbacks, 1994.

  50. John Masefield (1878-1967)

  51. Gallipoli. 1916. London: William Heinemann Ltd., 1935.
  52. The Old Front Line, or The Beginning of the Battle of the Somme. London: William Heinemann Ltd., 1917.
  53. St. George and the Dragon. London: William Heinemann Ltd., 1919.
  54. Collected Poems. 1923. London: William Heinemann Ltd., 1926.
  55. Vansittart, Peter, ed. John Masefield’s Letters from the Front, 1915-1917. London: Constable and Company Limited, 1984.
  56. John Masefield’s Great War: Collected Works. Ed. Philip W. Errington. Pen & Sword Military Classics. Barnsley, South Yorkshire: Pen & Sword Books Limited, 2007.

  57. R. H. Mottram (1883–1971)

  58. The Spanish Farm Trilogy, 1914-1918. 1924, 1925, 1926 & 1927. Penguin Modern Classics. Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1979.

  59. Wilfred Owen (1893-1918)

  60. Day Lewis, C., ed. The Collected Poems of Wilfred Owen. 1963. Memoir by Edmund Blunden. 1931. A Chatto & Windus Paperback CWP 18. London: Chatto & Windus Ltd., 1977.
  61. War Poems and Others. Ed. Dominic Hibberd. 1973. A Chatto & Windus Paperback CWP 46. London: Chatto & Windus Ltd., 1975.
  62. Stallworthy, Jon, ed. The Poems of Wilfred Owen. 1985. London: The Hogarth Press, 1988.
  63. Collected Letters. Ed. Harold Owen & John Bell. London: Oxford University Press, 1967.
  64. Welland, Dennis. Wilfred Owen: A Critical Study. Revised and Enlarged Edition. 1960. London: Chatto & Windus Ltd., 1978.

  65. Erich Maria Remarque (1898-1970)

  66. All Quiet on the Western Front. 1929. Trans. A. W. Wheen. 1929. London: G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 1930.

  67. Frank Richards [aka Francis Philip Woodruff] (1883-1961)

  68. Old Soldiers Never Die. 1933. Uckfield, East Sussex: The Naval & Military Press, Ltd., n.d. [c.2009].
  69. Old Soldier Sahib. Introduction by Robert Graves. 1936. Uckfield, East Sussex: The Naval & Military Press, Ltd., n.d. [c.2009].

  70. Jules Romains (1885-1972)

  71. Verdun. 1938. Trans. Gerard Hopkins. 1939. London: Peter Davies, 1940.

  72. Isaac Rosenberg (1890-1918)

  73. Parsons, Ian, ed. The Collected Works of Isaac Rosenberg: Poetry, Prose, Letters, Paintings and Drawings. Introduction by Siegfried Sassoon. London: Chatto & Windus, 1979.

  74. Siegfried Sassoon (1886-1967)

  75. Collected Poems. London: Faber, 1947.
  76. Collected Poems 1908-1956. 1961. London: Faber, 1984.
  77. The War Poems. Ed. Rupert Hart-Davis. London: Faber, 1983.
  78. Memoirs of a Fox-hunting Man. 1928. The Faber Library, 1. London: Faber, 1932.
  79. Memoirs of an Infantry Officer. 1930. The Faber Library, 2. London: Faber, 1932.
  80. Sherston’s Progress. 1936. Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1948.
  81. The Complete Memoirs of George Sherston: Memoirs of a Fox-hunting Man / Memoirs of an Infantry Officer / Sherston’s Progress. 1937. Published by the Reprint Society Ltd. by Arrangement with Faber and Faber. London: World Books, 1940.
  82. Siegfried’s Journey, 1916-1920. The Albatross Modern Continental Library, 558. London & Paris: The Albatross Ltd., 1947.
  83. Diaries 1915-1918. Ed. Rupert Hart-Davis. London: Book Club Associates, 1983.
  84. Diaries 1920-1922. Ed. Rupert Hart-Davis. London: Faber, 1981.
  85. Diaries 1923-1925. Ed. Rupert Hart-Davis. London: Faber, 1985.
  86. Wilson, Jean Moorcroft. Siegfried Sassoon: The Making of a War Poet. A Biography 1886-1918. 1998. New York: Routledge, 1999.
  87. Wilson, Jean Moorcroft. Siegfried Sassoon: The Journey from the Trenches. A Biography 1918-1967. London: Gerald Duckworth and Co. Ltd., 2003.

  88. Charles Sorley (1895-1915)

  89. Marlborough and Other Poems. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1916.

  90. Edward Thomas (1878-1917)

  91. Poems and Last Poems (Arranged in Chronological Order of Composition). Ed. Edna Longley. 1917 & 1918. Collins Annotated Student Texts. London & Glasgow: Collins Publishers, 1973.
  92. Collected Poems. Foreword by Walter de la Mare. 1920. London & Boston: Faber, 1979.
  93. The Collected Poems. Ed. R. George Thomas. 1978. Oxford Paperbacks. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1981.
  94. The Annotated Collected Poems. Ed. Edna Longley. 2008. Highgreen, Tarset, Northumberland: Bloodaxe Books Ltd., 2011.
  95. Thomas, Helen, with Myfanwy Thomas. Under Storm’s Wing: As It Was, World without End &c. 1926, 1931 & 1988. Paladin Grafton Books. London: Collins Publishing Group, 1990.
  96. Hollis, Matthew. Now All Roads Lead to France: The Last Years of Edward Thomas. 2011. London: Faber, 2012.

  97. J. R. R. Tolkien (1892-1973)

  98. Garth, John. Tolkien and the Great War: The Threshold of Middle-earth. 2003. London: HarperColllins, 2004.

  99. Arnold Zweig (1887-1968)

  100. The Case of Sergeant Grischa. 1927. Trans. Eric Sutton. 1928. London: Martin Secker, 1929.
  101. Education before Verdun. 1935. Trans. Eric Sutton. London: Martin Secker & Warburg Ltd., 1936.

  102. Escape

  103. Evans, A. J. The Escaping Club. 1921. Penguin 202: Travel and Adventure. Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1939.
  104. Harrison, Major M. C. C., & Capt H. A. Cartwright. Within Four Walls: A Classic of Escape. 1930. Penguin 281: Travel and Adventure. Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1940.
  105. Hervey, H. E. Cage-Birds. 1940. Penguin 287. Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1942.
  106. Jones, E. H. The Road to En-Dor: Being an Account of How Two Prisoners of War at Yozgad in Turkey Won Their Way to Freedom. 1929. The Week-End Library. London: John Lane / The Bodley Head, 1930.

  107. Historical

  108. Allison, William, & John Fairley. The Monocled Mutineer. 1978. London: Quartet Books Limited, 1986.
  109. Churchill, Winston S. The World Crisis: 1911-1918. 1923, 1927. Rev. ed. 1931. A Four Square Book. London: Landsborough Publications Limited, 1960.
  110. Clark, Alan. Aces High: The War in the Air over the Western Front 1914-18. 1973. London: Fontana / Collins, 1974.
  111. Lewis, Cecil. Sagittarius Rising. 1936. Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1977.
  112. Liddell-Hart, Basil H. History of The First World War. 1930. Rev. ed. 1934. London: Pan Books, 1972.
  113. Middlebrook, Martin. The First Day on the Somme: 1 July 1916. 1971. Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1984.
  114. Middlebrook, Martin. The Kaiser’s Battle. 21 March 1918: The First Day of the German Spring Offensive. 1978. Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1983.
  115. Taylor, A. J. P. The First World War: An Illustrated History. 1963. Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1966.
  116. Toland, John. No Man’s Land: The Story of 1918. 1980. Methuen Paperbacks. London: Eyre Methuen Ltd., 1982.
  117. Tuchman, Barbara W. The Zimmermann Telegram. 1958. London: Constable, 1959.
  118. Tuchman, Barbara W. The Guns of August. 1962. New York: Dell Publishing Co., Inc., 1963.
  119. Tuchman, Barbara W. The Proud Tower. A Portrait of the World Before the War: 1890-1914. 1966. New York: Bantam Books, 1971.
  120. Wolff, Ian. In Flanders Fields: The 1917 Campaign. 1958. London: Pan Books, 1961.

  121. Miscellaneous

  122. Bergonzi, Bernard. Heroes’ Twilight: A Study of the Literature of the Great War. London: Constable and Compnay Ltd., 1965.
  123. Cross, Tim, ed. The Lost Voices of World War I: An International Anthology of Writers, Poets & Playwrights. 1988. London: Bloomsbury
  124. Fussell, Paul. The Great War and Modern Memory. 1975. Oxford Paperbacks, 385. London: Oxford University Press, 1977.
  125. Fussell, Paul, ed. The Bloody Game: An Anthology of Modern War. A Scribners Book. London: Macdonald & Co (Publishers) Ltd., 1991.
  126. Hayward, James. Myths and Legends of the First World War. 2002. Stroud, Gloucestershire: The History Press, 2010.
  127. Hynes, Samuel. A War Imagined: The First World War and English Culture. 1990. London: Pimlico, 1992.
  128. Hynes, Samuel. The Soldier's Tale: Bearing Witness to Modern War. 1997. Pimlico. London: Random House, 1998.
  129. Korte, Barbara, with Ann-Marie Einhaus, ed. The Penguin Book of First World War Stories. Penguin Classics. London: Penguin, 2007.
  130. Macdonald, Lyn. 1914-1918: Voices and Images of the Great War. 1988. Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1991.
  131. Nichols, Robert, ed. Anthology of War Poetry 1914-1918. London: Nicholson & Watson, 1943.
  132. Ricketts, Harry. Strange Meetings: The Lives of the Poets of the Great War. 2010. Pimlico 860. London: Random House, 2012.
  133. Silkin, Jon, ed. The Penguin Book of First World War Poetry. 1979. Penguin Modern Classics. London: Penguin, 1981.
  134. Stallworthy, Jon, ed. The Oxford Book of War Poetry. 1984. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2003.
  135. Stallworthy, Jon. Anthem for Doomed Youth: Twelve Soldier Poets of the First World War. 2002. London: Constable & Robinson Ltd., 2003.
  136. Winter, Denis. Death’s Men: Soldiers of the Great War. 1978. Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1985.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Poetry NZ Wellington Launch

Cover image: Renee Bevan / Cover photograph: Caryline Boreham
/ cover design: Ellen Portch & Brett Cross


As part of Massey University’s sponsorship of the Australian Associated Writing Programmes Conference, we are proud to launch the Poetry NZ Yearbook and invite you to attend the celebration.

The launch event will include Jack Ross, the new Managing Editor of Poetry NZ, and a number of the other poets included. The issue will be launched by Dr Ingrid Horrocks of the School of English and Media Studies.

The evening will begin with the launch of the Aotearoa Creative Writing Research Network (ACWRN) website.

The line-up of invited readers includes the following:

Jake Arthur
Paul Hetherington
Ingrid Horrocks
Thérèse Lloyd
Janet Newman
Karina Quinn
Liang Yujing

Date: Monday 1 December
Time: 6pm – 7:30pm
Venue: Meow Cafe, 9 Edward Street, Te Aro, Wellington

Light refreshments will be served during the evening.

We are also grateful to the W.H. Oliver Humanities Research Academy at Massey for supporting this event.

You are also welcome to attend the many other public events associated with the AAWP conference being held on Massey’s Wellington campus. Hone Kouka, Emily Perkins, and Martin Edmond will all be giving plenary addresses, and over sixty other New Zealand and Australian writers will be speaking. For more information about registration please visit

& here (courtesy of the amazing Maggie Hall) is the one picture I have of the event:


Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Poetry NZ Yearbook launch: Hallowe'en

Sir Neil Waters Building (Massey Albany)


As part of Massey University’s Writers Read series, we are proud to launch the Poetry NZ Yearbook and invite you to attend the celebration.

The launch event will include Lisa Samuels, the featured poet in this issue, Jack Ross, the new Managing Editor of Poetry NZ, and a number of the other poets included. The magazine will be launched by A/Prof Grant Duncan, of Massey University's College of Humanities and Social Sciences.

The line-up of invited readers will include the following:

Iain Britton
Scott Hamilton
Michele Leggott
Elizabeth Morton
Alistair Paterson
Richard von Sturmer
Kirsten Warner

Date: Hallowe’en – Friday 31st October
Time: 6pm – 8pm
Venue: Drama Lab, Sir Neil Waters building,
Albany campus, Massey University

Light refreshments will be served during the evening.

Come in costume if you dare!

Click here to RSVP by Wednesday 29 October

For more information, please contact Jack Ross

For more information about the venue (pictured above), together with down-loadable maps, please visit our website here:

Albany Campus (2014)

Here are a few pictures from the launch (for more, please visit the Poetry NZ blog):

Mixing & mingling in the foyer

Dagmara Rudolph & Jack Ross

l-to-r: Alistair Paterson, Elizabeth Morton, Richard von Sturmer, Iain Britton, Michele Leggott &
Lisa Samuels, Jack Ross, Dagmara Rudolph, Olive the guide-dog & Kirsten Warner

Inside the Massey Albany Theatre Lab

The Prince of Darkness kicks off proceedings

There will also be a WELLINGTON launch for the magazine on:

Monday, December 1st

6.00-7.30 pm

Meow Cafe
9 Edward St
Te Aro
Wellington 6011

For more details about this event, and the readers we've invited, watch this space!

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

K. M. Ross: The Blinding Walk

K. M. Ross: The Blinding Walk (2014)

Pretty exciting news in the post this morning: I opened up the mailbox to find a copy of my brother Ken's huge new novel, just published by Waywiser Press in Oxford (UK). It's a pretty damned handsome looking book, I reckon, and I was very pleased to see that it can readily be ordered from this country, too (I checked on Fishpond - no extra postage costs - but no doubt it's available through most of the other sites as well).

cover with spine

There's some interesting comments in the interview with Rebecca Robinson which you can find on the Waywiser site. She asks him, "Who are your major influences?" (a little like that scene in The Commitments where each musician auditioning for Jimmy Rabbitte's soul band has to state their affiliations before they've even allowed in the door):
In English language literature, the great Modernists, Joyce, Faulkner, Hemingway and Virginia Woolf; J. R. R. Tolkien and C. S. Lewis; Joseph Conrad and Henry James; extraordinary individual talents such as Laurence Sterne, John Cowper Powys and Patrick White; Post-Modernists such as Kathy Acker and J. G. Ballard; and too many poets to name. In other languages: Old Icelandic Saga literature, Snorri Sturluson; the Russians; Proust and Georges Perec; and the modern South Americans: García Márquez and Vargas Llosa and Jorge Luis Borges and so many others. I also tend to draw ideas from film (Andrei Tarkovsky, Ingmar Bergman), graphic novels, and music of all eras.

You can find out more about the novel itself from the blurb and summary up on the site, but I thought I'd just mention here that Ken's previous novel, Falling Through the Architect, was published by the Writers Group here in New Zealand in 2005:

cover image by Will Maclean / Cover design by James Fryer

Those of you who are aficionados of brief magazine might also be interested to hear that Ken has published quite a lot of material in that journal over the years, including substantial extracts from both novels. Here's a list from the brief authors' page:
  1. The Demon Home / 24 (2002): 17-18
  2. from Falling Through the Architect / 25 (2002): 45-48
  3. Rambo; Dumped / 27 (2003): 77-82
  4. Sun’s Lid / 29 (2004): 53-56
  5. Tripping / 30 (2004): 92-95
  6. Out and Out / 31 (2004): 80-82
  7. Exile and the Wolf / 33 (2006): 41-43
  8. The Art of. .. / 34 (2007): 116-19
  9. Te Ika / 35 (2007): 83-87
  10. Review of Song of the Brakeman by Bill Direen / 35 (2007): 120-21
  11. The Clay Monster / 36 (2008): 83-86
  12. Venusian Transit / 37 (2009): 32-38
  13. Thrash / 39 (2010): 3-9
  14. The Headless: Lucy /40 (2010): 66-69
  15. The Headless: Coleop / 41 (2010): 10-13
  16. Ballad of the Kitchen Corner / 42 (2011): 58-62
  17. The Last Great Road Race / 46 (2012): 133-39
  18. from The Blinding Walk / 50 (2014): 75-93

Ken's doing a reading from The Blinding Walk at the Albion Beatnik Bookstore (great name for a bookshop!), 34 Walton Street, Oxford, on Friday 24th October at 7:30 p.m., so if any of you happen to be in the UK, you might like to check that out as well.

The book is dedicated to my sister Anne, and among the acknowledgements Bronwyn and I are both listed. This is a very special event for us, and I wish Ken great joy from this wonderful success. Now let's just sell a few copies! It is about a couple of feckless Kiwis on their OE, so you'd think that would ring a chord with a lot of readers, both local and expatriate.

Reviews & Comments:

  1. Helen Dumont, "Helen's Bookshelf: The Blinding Walk." Midwest Book Review: Oregon, USA (January 2015):

    … An epic novel of skilfully crafted and memorable characters deftly woven into a complex and engaging story that holds the reader's rapt attention from beginning to end. Exceptionally well written, "The Blinding Walk" documents K. M. Ross as an author of considerable and evident talent as a master storyteller. Simply stated, "The Blinding Walk" is very highly recommended for both personal reading lists and community library General Fiction collections.

  2. Richard Taylor, "Dark Invading Geist: The Blinding Walk by K.M. Ross (Waywiser Press, 2015), 520 pp., $30." Landfall Review Online (March 2016):

    I must emphasise the extraordinarily unusual and often ingenious use of language by Ross. It seems to me a unique book, a big philosophical-spiritual novel, using techniques and themes not often attempted by New Zealand writers. The protagonists are searching for artistic or transcendent meaning. Their drive is to create, to write, to compose music (and ‘fail’, as Yehune does, magnificently).

  3. William Direen, "Review of K. M. Ross. The Blinding Walk. Waywiser Press, Oxon and Baltimore. 2015." Percutio 10 (2016): 67-68.

    It is a story that begins in Sydney and crosses three continents. For me, it began in 2006 (Percutio #0) when the author submitted an extract from The Blinding Walk in progress. It was not the last Ross (K. M.) extract Percutio would publish. This hefty volume sees the work's completion. He welds the episodes together skilfully, making a greater story of it, without completely driving away the Faulknerian brume of the extracts. If he and his characters have that kiwi knack of slipping into foreign cultures almost unnoticed, the author has the Scottish flair for plain speaking and never vaunting one's prowess. Even at his most seemingly experimental, his work never seems insurmountable. While it lacks the linguistic compression of a Samuels or the diversionary tactics of a Koed, Ross has a similar interest in overcoming linguistic playfulness, to engage.

    Peppered through these 500 pages of 'walk' you'll hear a variety of accents. We rove from early Strine ('Thees eez a see-vilised country') to French ('Allay, allay') to 'failing with English' and '[falling back] on signs', to Russian, Italian and the inevitable Scottish. The last chapter, 'One, Two, Three' is like a setting off, and contains some of the best prose of the book. If this is a departure for K. M. Ross, I would like to see where it leads him: 'sun reflected, giving a wordless message to whatever it was in our heads that was open and unregarded; the me, which you can't expect to last very long in the lift of the wind and the corridors of school and the treading and treading down into mud-scuffed floors'.

    Too true.

Wednesday, October 01, 2014

A Clearer View of the Hinterland

Well, some of you may have noticed the following announcement on Beattie's Book Blog yesterday:

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

New poetry release by Jack Ross, Auckland

A Clearer View of the Hinterland: 

Poems & Sequences 1981-2014

Author: Jack Ross

ISBN: 978-0-473-29640-7
Price: $30.00
Extent: 192 pages
Format: paperback
Publisher: HeadworX
Cover image: Painting by Graham Fletcher

A Clearer View of the Hinterland

The first of the 33 poems and sequences reprinted here was written in 1981, the latest in 2014 – a time-lapse of thirty-three years. As Paula Green put it in 99 Ways into NZ Poetry: “Jack Ross writes poetry like an inquisitive magpie, a scholar, a linguist and a hot-air balloonist … The end result, in contrast to some experimental work, promotes heart as much as it does cerebral talk.”

A Clearer View of the Hinterland is Jack Ross’s fifth full-length poetry collection, and his most substantial to date. It reprints four complete poetry chapbooks, as well as including extracts from numerous others. The poems on offer here include love lyrics, experimental texts, and translations from a variety of languages.

Critical comments:

Thought-provoking and challenging, a tantalizing maze, clashing ideas and images, mixing old and new forms, with wit, candour and self-mockery. – Harvey McQueen, JAAM

It’s hard to imagine a writer better equipped to give context through paratext than Ross, for whom form and format are always expressive. – Jen Crawford, brief

About the Author:

Jack Ross’s publications include four full-length collections of poetry, three novels, and three volumes of short fiction. He has also edited numerous books and literary magazines, including – with Jan Kemp – the trilogy of audio / text anthologies Classic, Contemporary and New NZ Poets in Performance (AUP, 2006-8).

If you'd like to know more about the book, I can hardly do better than point you towards Mark Pirie's HeadworX website, where there are a couple of sample poems, as well as a link to the online annotations for the collection (it seemed better than loading up the book itself with a lot of fairly specialised source details).

More to the point, you could order a copy right now from Mark Pirie's site (should you wish to). If you'd prefer to wait and have a look through it first, we're planning a launch sometime in late November / early December, together with Tracey Slaughter's novella The Longest Drink in Town, which is being published by Pania Press.

And in the meantime, here's a clearer view of that cover image of Graham Fletcher's:

cover image: Graham Fletcher / cover design: Ellen Portch & Brett Cross

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Dirty Politics

Nicky Hager: Dirty Politics (2014)

Well, I've read the book. Finally. It only came out last week, but it had already sold out from the local bookshop, so I was forced to make my way to the heart of the mall in Albany, where there were still quite a few copies left in the local Whitcoulls.

I'm no stranger to Hager's writing. I read The Hollow Men (2006) back when it first appeared (and was struck by how few of my colleagues who professed an interest in politics bothered to do as much - as if they somehow thought a few reviews from our wonderfully objective New Zealand media could give them the nub of the matter ...) I also read his genuinely shocking book about New Zealand's (so-called) "humanitarian" involvement in Afghanistan: Other People's Wars (2011).

At first I was a little disappointed to see how comparatively thin this one was: the others were thick, meaty tomes, with hundreds of pages of text and almost equally fascinating footnotes. In this case, though, I think one would have to say that size really doesn't matter. And I could also see the point that there's really no excuse for not reading less than 200 pages of material which could vitally affect your view of New Zealand's democracy.

I could recite a few of the shocking things in there: John Key's "sympathy" call to Cameron Slater of the Whale Oil blog (I won't provide a link) when the latter was being criticised for gloating over the death in a car crash of a youth from the West Coast ("One More Feral Down"); Judith Collin's fawning text messages and systematic leaking of material to Slater (for which she's now received a "final final warning" from our Prime Minister - preliminary to a final final final warning, no doubt); the gullible way in which our News Media have permitted Slater and his loathsome buddies to dictate the terms of each new political "scandal" ... It's all in there - all clearly documented, with chapter and verse.

But that isn't really the story, for me. At the time of Watergate, the real shock for Americans was not that their President had authorised a systematic campaign of dirty tricks against his opponents (including burglary, theft and a range of other foolish and counterproductive crimes), but the way he spoke to his White House intimates day to day.

Those endless, heavily edited transcripts of the tapes he released, with all their thousands of "expletive deleted"s, were the thing which really sealed his doom in the eyes of the American public. He'd always been sold to them as a Sunday School teacher, a bit of an old-fashioned, aw-shucks, fuddy-duddy puritan. To discover, now, that Nixon was in the habit of joking about sch loveable topics as how much he hated sitting next to Japanese dignitaries (because they stank of fish), the sheer number of curse words he used in every single sentence, made him sound more like a racist taxi driver than a responsible statesman.

The same is true of this book. Simply being allowed to overhear the kinds of filthy, sexist, abusive, mindless drivel Slater and his intimates - including, it seems, Cabinet Ministers and senior advisers to the Prime Minister (if not actually Gentleman John himself) - trade on a daily basis on their facebook and twitter accounts is like crawling through a tunnel of ordure.

Don't get me wrong. I was never a subscriber to the John Key myth. The mask, after all, is pretty thin whenever the slightest hint of opposition or dissent is heard. But I honestly had no idea that he and his minions actually enjoyed dealing with the likes of Slater. That his rants really and truly represent their view of the world. That came as a genuine surprise, I must say.

The final icing on the cake is the discovery of how much of this activity is motivated by a taste for easy money rather than genuine ideological involvement. It turns out that Slater prints posts from Big Tobacco and various other "responsible" lobby groups under his own name as if they were sincere expressions of opinion - for a substantial monthly sum. Hence, according to Hager, the constant shifts and contradictions on his famous blog. What is it being paid to print this month is more the question than what does it actually stand for?

Read the book. There's far more in there than you've been told. Make up your own mind. Don't be "spun" on this one - it matters too much. If the Slaters of this world continue to flourish, then there really is no hope for our electoral system. If that's of no interest to you, then perhaps the likes of Paul Henry and Cameron Slater really do speak for you. Congratulations!

I don't really believe that, though. Nixon may have his apologists still, but when it came down to it, the citizens of his country were simply not prepared to endorse his doctrine that he never broke the law because "it can't be illegal, if the president did it." Politicians must be subject to the law of the land, and it's about time that we all started to hold them accountable again. Thanks, Nicky Hager.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Massey Albany Open Day (16/8)

School of English and Media Studies Notice Board [LA]

I just thought I'd post a few of the pictures that Bronwyn Lloyd and Leola Abraham (our College communications advisor), took of us all on Saturday 22nd August:

The SEMS desk [BL]

Bronwyn & I proffer advice [LA]

Jack Ross & Pansy Duncan [BL]

The Round Room, Atrium Building [BL]

Our part of the Round Room [LA]

You can find more of these online:

l-to-r: Pansy Duncan, Bronwyn Lloyd, JR, Raquel Harper, Joe Grixti [LA]

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Why W. H. Auden?

Aiden Hatley: "MAD poster"

With Massey's own
Jack Ross
as the guest speaker
Wednesday 6th August, 1-2 pm
SC4 Massey Albany main campus

Next week I'm supposed to be leading a discussion with a group of students on this rather uncomfortably weighty topic. I find that what thoughts I do have on the subject all seem to have been expressed already - rather better - by W. H. Auden, possibly my favourite English-language poet of all time (invidious though it would be to have to make such a choice).

There is, for a start, his early poem "Missing" [From scars where kestrels hover] (1929), about those "Fighters for no-one's sake / Who died beyond the border":
Heroes are buried who
Did not believe in death,
And bravery is now
Not in the dying breath
But resisting the temptations
To skyline operations.
The poem concludes with the magnificent lines:
"Leave for Cape Wrath to-night,"
And the host after waiting
Must quench the lamps and pass
Alive into the house.
That image of the "host" passing "alive into the house" is very much Auden's idea of the thirties hero: someone who can resist all the "temptations" to the prestige of "skyline operations" but instead be content to remain alive as a witness.

It's a vision of the artist as ordinary citizen ("The poet is Mr. Everyman. He goes to work every day on the tram," as he told the young Stephen Spender at much the same time (as recorded in the latter's 1953 autobiography World Within World).

It recalls Milton's sonnet "On His Blindness" - "They also serve who only stand and wait" - but goes beyond that to reject the whole idea of the "test": the supreme ordeal (like the trenches of 1914-18, missed by a whisker by his whole generation) which proves you to be a man.

Cecil Beaton: W. H. Auden (1930)

But can the artist go beyond this role of witness and observer? Auden's poem "Spain 1937" would seem to imply as much:
The stars are dead. The animals will not look.
We are left alone with our day, and the time is short, and
History to the defeated
May say Alas but cannot help nor pardon.
Here what is stressed is the need for action:
"What's your proposal? To build the just city? I will.
I agree. Or is it the suicide pact, the romantic
Death? Very well, I accept, for
I am your choice, your decision. Yes, I am Spain."

Many have heard it on remote peninsulas,
On sleepy plains, in the aberrant fishermen's islands
Or the corrupt heart of the city.
Have heard and migrated like gulls or the seeds of a flower.

They clung like burrs to the long expresses that lurch
Through the unjust lands, through the night, through the alpine tunnel;
They floated over the oceans;
They walked the passes. All presented their lives.
Spain is now symbolic of the choice, an invitation to the young of international brigades, who "clung like burrs to the long expresses that lurch / Through the unjust lands."

Auden subsequently chose to repudiate this poem. He said of it, in fact, in the preface to Collected Shorter Poems (1966), of the lines "History to the defeated / May say alas but cannot help nor pardon", that "to say this is to equate goodness with success":
It would have been bad enough if I had ever held this wicked doctrine, but that I should have stated it simply because it sounded to me rhetorically effective is quite inexcusable.
I don't know if he quite understood his own poem, though - or perhaps he feigned to misunderstand it in order to make a point. As I read it, at any rate, the poem is simply stating a fact about history: "Acts of injustice done / Between the rising and the setting sun / In history lie like bones, each one", as he remarked on another occasion. It isn't arguing that it is necessary to win in order to be right, but simply that those who die defeated (as the Spanish loyalists did, so many of them) cannot be helped by subsequent apologists or revisionists.

I can see that this is indeed an unpalatable "doctrine" for the later, Christian, Auden, but for the earlier Leftist, to whom History was itself a kind of deity, it added a necessary dose of cold reason.

This period culminates in Auden's "September 1, 1939," another of the poems excluded - much to his admirers' surprise - from Collected Shorter Poems:
I sit in one of the dives
On Fifty-second Street
Uncertain and afraid
As the clever hopes expire
Of a low dishonest decade:
Waves of anger and fear
Circulate over the bright
And darkened lands of the earth,
Obsessing our private lives;
The unmentionable odour of death
Offends the September night.
As he said much later, "All the attitudes I struck in the 1930s didn't save a single Jew." That, presumably, is one of the "clever hopes" expiring with the coming of war - along, perhaps, with the rest of the rabble-rousing rhetoric of "Spain 1937"?

The poem goes on with a kind of inexorable, nursery rhyme logic, to remind us that:
I and the public know
What all schoolchildren learn,
Those to whom evil is done
Do evil in return.
Because, in the final analysis:
The windiest militant trash
Important Persons shout
Is not so crude as our wish:
What mad Nijinsky wrote
About Diaghilev
Is true of the normal heart;
For the error bred in the bone
Of each woman and each man
Craves what it cannot have,
Not universal love
But to be loved alone.
The poem ends with an impassioned cri de coeur:
All I have is a voice
To undo the folded lie,
The romantic lie in the brain
Of the sensual man-in-the-street
And the lie of Authority
Whose buildings grope the sky:
There is no such thing as the State
And no one exists alone;
Hunger allows no choice
To the citizen or the police;
We must love one another or die.
It's that last line that caused all the trouble. It was much praised and much quoted at the time, as it seemed to sum up the whole business - why we had to keep going, keep struggling, keep trying to "love one another." Auden complained later (somewhat pedantically, one might say) that we would die whether we loved one another or not, and he therefore revised the line to read "We must love one another and die" in subsequent collections. Even this was not enough, though, so later still the whole poem was excised.

I suppose he had a point. It is a nice, resonant line, but it doesn't really make sense when you think about it. It seems a shame to scrap the whole poem for that, though. There's an earlier stanza which runs through my head every time I think about the "compassion fatigue" so endemic to our times:
Faces along the bar
Cling to their average day:
The lights must never go out,
The music must always play,
All the conventions conspire
To make this fort assume
The furniture of home;
Lest we should see where we are,
Lost in a haunted wood,
Children afraid of the night
Who have never been happy or good.
"Lost in a haunted wood / Children afraid of the night / Who have never been happy or good" - that's us all right.

I'll conclude with some lines from another one of those magisterial poems from the end of the 1930s, elegies for a dying age, poems that speak to us now with an ever more urgent voice - "In Memory of W. B. Yeats":
You were silly like us; your gift survived it all:
The parish of rich women, physical decay,
Yourself. Mad Ireland hurt you into poetry.
Now Ireland has her madness and her weather still,
For poetry makes nothing happen: it survives
In the valley of its making where executives
Would never want to tamper, flows on south
From ranches of isolation and the busy griefs,
Raw towns that we believe and die in; it survives,
A way of happening, a mouth.
It's interesting how often this poem is - not so much misquoted, as misunderstood. People recall that half-line "poetry makes nothing happen," and see that as an expression of quietism or defeatism in the face of the (so-called) "real world" of executives and their ilk. But if you read on, that's not at all the end of the matter. On the contrary, the "poetry" that Auden imagines so triumphantly in this poem "survives, / A way of happening, a mouth." Poetry may make nothing happen, but that's because it is, in itself, a way of happening - in the valley of its making, those "Raw towns that we believe and die in," it has its own healing power to offer.

The poem's splendidly resonant conclusion therefore expands on these earlier lines, rather than contradicting them:
Follow, poet, follow right
To the bottom of the night,
With your unconstraining voice
Still persuade us to rejoice.

With the farming of a verse
Make a vineyard of the curse,
Sing of human unsuccess
In a rapture of distress.

In the deserts of the heart
Let the healing fountains start,
In the prison of his days
Teach the free man how to praise.
Auden won't let us get away with the excuse that poetry is impotent to affect our lives: "With your unconstraining voice / Still persuade us to rejoice" is the task of every poet, in his view.

It's not that he's naive about the difficulty of the task: "In the prison of his days / Teach the free man how to praise" was written by one who foresaw the perils of consumerist vacuity and the "airtight cages" of poverty which could be established so easily alongside the palatial dwellings of those of us who call ourselves "free."

W. H. Auden (Christmas, 2011)

Did Auden ever resolve these balances? No, of course not. But the various positions he occupied at different times are well worth reconsidering now, when we face a world which more and more resembles that of the 1930s. I think he knew we would, and that's why he outlined the task of poetry (and art in general) with such precision and care:
I, decent with the seasons, move
Different or with a different love
as he said in "The Letter," the first poem preserved in his final collected edition. "Let your last thinks be thanks," says one of the last.

W. H. Auden: Spain (1937)

Wystan Hugh Auden (1907-1973)


  1. Auden, W. H. Poems. 1930. London: Faber, 1948.

  2. Auden, W. H. The Orators: An English Study. 1932. London: Faber, 1966.

  3. Auden, W. H. Look, Stranger! 1936. London: Faber, 1946.

  4. Auden, W. H. Look, Stranger! 1936. London: Faber, 2001.

  5. Auden, W. H. Another Time. London: Faber, 1940.

  6. Auden, W. H. Some Poems. 1940. London: Faber, 1941.

  7. Auden, W. H. New Year Letter. 1941. London: Faber, 1965.

  8. Auden, W. H. For the Time Being. 1945. London: Faber, 1953.

  9. Auden, W. H. The Collected Poetry. New York: Random House, 1945.

  10. Auden, W. H. The Age of Anxiety: A Baroque Eclogue. 1948. London: Faber, 1956.

  11. Auden, W. H. Collected Shorter Poems, 1930-1944. 1950. London: Faber, 1959.

  12. Auden, W. H. Nones. 1952. London: Faber, 1953.

  13. Auden, W. H. The Shield of Achilles. London: Faber, 1955.

  14. Auden, W. H. A Selection by the Author. 1958. Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1964.

  15. Auden, W. H. Homage to Clio. London: Faber, 1960.

  16. Auden, W. H. About the House. London: Faber, 1966.

  17. Auden, W. H. Collected Shorter Poems: 1927-1957. 1966. London: Faber, 1975.

  18. Auden, W. H. Collected Longer Poems. 1968. London: Faber, 1977.

  19. Auden, W. H. Selected Poems. 1968. London: Faber, 1972.

  20. Auden, W. H. City without Walls and Other Poems. 1969. London: Faber, 1970.

  21. Auden, W. H. Academic Graffiti. Illustrated by Fillipo Sanjust. London: Faber, 1971.

  22. Auden, W. H. Epistle to a Godson & Other Poems. 1972. London: Faber, 1973.

  23. Auden, W. H. Thank You, Fog: Last Poems. London: Faber, 1974.

  24. Auden, W. H. Collected Poems. Ed. Edward Mendelson. London: Faber, 1976.

  25. Auden, W. H. Collected Poems. Ed. Edward Mendelson. 1976. London: Faber, 1991.

  26. Auden, W. H. Collected Poems. Ed. Edward Mendelson. 1976. Rev. ed. 1991. London: Faber, 1994.

  27. Auden, W. H. The English Auden: Poems, Essays and Dramatic Writings 1927-1939. Ed. Edward Mendelson. 1977. London: Faber, 1986.

  28. Auden, W. H. The English Auden: Poems, Essays and Dramatic Writings 1927-1939. Ed. Edward Mendelson. London: Faber, 1977.

  29. [McDiarmid, Lucy S. “W. H. Auden’s ‘In the Year of My Youth …’” Review of English Studies, 29 (115) (1978): 267-312.]

  30. Auden, W. H. Selected Poems. Ed. Edward Mendelson. London: Faber, 1979.

  31. Auden, W. H. Selected Poems. Ed. Edward Mendelson. 1979. London: Faber, 1982.

  32. Auden, W. H. Selected Poems: Expanded Edition. Ed. Edward Mendelson. 1979. New York: Vintage Books, 2007.

  33. Auden, W. H. The Platonic Blow and My Epitaph. Washington, D.C.: Orchises Press, 1985.

  34. Auden, W. H. Juvenilia: Poems 1922-1928. Ed. Katherine Bucknell. London: Faber, 1994.

  35. Auden, W. H. Juvenilia: Poems 1922-1928. Expanded Paperback Edition. Ed. Katherine Bucknell. 1994. Princeton & Oxford: Princeton University Press, 2003.

  36. Auden, W. H. As I Walked Out One Evening: Songs, Ballads, Lullabies, Limericks, and Other Light Verse. Ed. Edward Mendelson. New York: Vintage Books, 1995.

  37. Plays:

  38. Auden, W. H. The Dance of Death. 1933. London: Faber, 1941.

  39. Auden, W. H. & Christopher Isherwood. The Dog Beneath the Skin, or Where is Francis? 1935. London: Faber, 1968.

  40. Auden, W. H. & Christopher Isherwood. The Ascent of F6 & On the Frontier. 1958. London: Faber, 1972.

  41. Auden, W. H. Paul Bunyan: The Libretto of the Operetta by Benjamin Britten. 1976. Essay by Donald Mitchell. London: Faber, 1988.

  42. Auden, W. H., & Christopher Isherwood. Plays and Other Dramatic Writings: 1928-1938. Ed. Edward Mendelson. The Complete Works of W. H. Auden. London: Faber, 1988.

  43. Auden, W. H., & Chester Kallman. Libretti and Other Dramatic Writings: 1939-1973. Ed. Edward Mendelson. The Complete Works of W. H. Auden. Princeton & Oxford: Princeton University Press, 1993.

  44. Prose:

  45. Auden, W. H., & Louis MacNeice. Letters from Iceland. London: Faber, 1937.

  46. Auden, W. H. & Christopher Isherwood. Journey to a War. 1939. Rev. ed. 1973. London: Faber, 1986.

  47. Auden, W. H. The Enchaféd Flood, or The Romantic Iconography of the Sea. London: Faber, 1951.

  48. Auden, W. H. The Enchaféd Flood, or The Romantic Iconography of the Sea. 1951. London: Faber, 1985.

  49. Auden, W. H. The Dyer’s Hand and Other Essays. 1963. London: Faber, 1964.

  50. Auden, W. H. The Dyer’s Hand & Other Essays. 1963. London: Faber, 1975.

  51. Auden, W. H. Secondary Worlds: The T. S. Eliot Memorial Lectures, Delivered at Eliot College in the University of Kent at Canterbury, October, 1967. London: Faber, 1968.

  52. Auden, W. H. Secondary Worlds: The T. S. Eliot Memorial Lectures. 1968. London: Faber, 1984.

  53. Auden, W. H. Forewords and Afterwords. Ed. Edward Mendelson. London: Faber, 1973.

  54. Auden, W. H. Forewords & Afterwords. Ed. Edward Mendelson. 1973. London: Faber, 1979.

  55. Auden, W. H. Prose and Travel Books in Verse and Prose. Volume 1: 1926-1938. The Complete Works of W. H. Auden. Ed. Edward Mendelson. London: Faber, 1996.

  56. Auden, W. H. Prose. Volume 2: 1939-1948. The Complete Works of W. H. Auden. Ed. Edward Mendelson. Princeton & Oxford: Princeton University Press, 2002.

  57. Auden, W. H. Prose. Volume 3: 1949-1955. The Complete Works of W. H. Auden. Ed. Edward Mendelson. Princeton & Oxford: Princeton University Press, 2008.

  58. Auden, W. H. Prose. Volume 4: 1956-1962. The Complete Works of W. H. Auden. Ed. Edward Mendelson. Princeton & Oxford: Princeton University Press, 2010.

  59. Edited & Translated:

  60. Auden, W. H. & John Garrett, ed. The Poet’s Tongue: An Anthology. 1935. London: Bell, 1952.

  61. Auden, W. H., ed. The Oxford Book of Light Verse. 1938. London: Oxford University Press, 1973.

  62. Auden, W. H. & Norman Holmes Pearson, ed. The Portable Romantic Poets. 1950. New York: Viking Penguin Inc., 1978.

  63. Auden, W. H. & Norman Holmes Pearson, ed. Poets of the English Language. 5 vols. 1952. London: Heron Books, n.d.

  64. Auden, W. H., Chester Kallman & Noah Greenberg, ed. An Elizabethan Song Book: Lute Songs, Madrigals and Rounds. 1957. London: Faber, 1972.

  65. Auden, W. H., ed. The Faber Book of Modern American Verse. London: Faber, 1961.

  66. Goethe, Johann Wolfgang von. Italian Journey: 1786-1788. Trans. W. H. Auden & Elizabeth Mayer. London: Wm Collins, Sons and Co., Ltd., 1962.

  67. Goethe, Johann Wolfgang von. Italian Journey. Trans. W. H. Auden & Elizabeth Mayer. 1962. Penguin Classics. Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1970.

  68. Auden, W. H., ed. A Choice of de la Mare’s Verse. London: Faber, 1963.

  69. Auden, W. H. & Louis Kronenberger, ed. The Faber Book of Aphorisms: A Personal Selection. 1964. London: Faber, 1965.

  70. Auden, W. H. & Louis Kronenberger, ed. The Faber Book of Aphorisms: A Personal Selection. 1964. London: Faber, 1974.

  71. Hammarskjöld, Dag. Markings. 1963. Trans. W. H. Auden & Leif Sjöberg. 1964. London: Faber, 1975.

  72. Auden, W. H., ed. Nineteenth-Century Minor Poets. Notes by George R. Creeger. London: Faber, 1967.

  73. Auden, W. H. & Paul B. Taylor, trans. The Elder Edda: a Selection. Introduction by Peter H. Salus. 1969. London: Faber, 1973.

  74. Auden, W. H. A Certain World: A Commonplace Book. 1970. London: Faber, 1971.

  75. Auden, W. H., ed. A Choice of Dryden’s Verse. London: Faber, 1973.

  76. Auden, W. H., ed. George Herbert. Poet to Poet. Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1973.

  77. Lagerkvist, Pär. Evening Land / Aftonland: bi-lingual edition. 1953. Trans. W. H. Auden & Leif Sjöberg. 1975. London: Souvenir Press, 1977.

  78. Auden, W. H. & Paul B. Taylor, trans. Norse Poems. 1981. London: Faber, 1983.

  79. Secondary:

  80. Ansen, Alan. The Table Talk of W. H. Auden. Ed. Nicholas Jenkins. 1990. London: Faber, 1991.

  81. Auden, W. H. ‘The Map of all My Youth:’ Early Works, Friends & Influences. Auden Studies 1. Ed. Katherine Bucknell & Nicholas Jenkins. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1990.

  82. Auden, W. H. ‘The Language of Learning and the Language of Love:’ Uncollected Writings, New Interpretations. Auden Studies 2. Ed. Katherine Bucknell & Nicholas Jenkins. London: Oxford, 1994.

  83. Carpenter, Humphrey. W. H. Auden: A Biography. 1981. London: Unwin Paperbacks, 1983.

  84. Everett, Barbara. Auden. 1964. Edinburgh: Oliver & Boyd, 1969.

  85. Farnan, Dorothy J. Auden in Love. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1984.

  86. Haffenden, John, ed. W. H. Auden: The Critical Heritage. The Critical Heritage Series. Ed. B. C. Southam. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1983.

  87. I Believe: Nineteen Personal Philosophies. By W. H. Auden, Pearl Buck, Albert Einstein, Havelock Ellis, E. M. Forster, J. B. S. Haldane, Julian Huxley, Harold J. Laski, Lin Yutang, Thomas Mann, Jacques Maritain, Jules Romains, Bertrand Russell, John Strachey, James Thurber, H. W. Van loon, Beatrice Webb, H. G. Wells & Rebecca West. 1940. London: Unwin Books, 1962.

  88. Mendelson, Edward. Early Auden. 1981. London: Faber, 1999.

  89. Mendelson, Edward. Later Auden. 1999. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2000.

  90. Mortimer, Raymond, ed. The Seven Deadly Sins. By Angus Wilson, Edith Sitwell, Cyril Connolly, Patrick Leigh Fermor, Evelyn Waugh, Christopher Sykes & W. H. Auden. London: Sunday Times Publications, Inc. 1962.

  91. Osborne, Charles. W. H. Auden: The Life of a Poet. 1979. London: Papermac, 1982.

  92. Rowse, A. L. The Poet Auden: A Personal Memoir. London: Methuen, 1987.

  93. Smith, Stan. W. H. Auden. Rereading Literature. Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1985.

  94. Spears, Monroe, K. ed. Auden: A Collection of Critical Essays. Twentieth Century Views. Englewood Cliffs, N. J.: Prentice-Hall, Inc., 1964.

  95. Spender, Stephen, ed. W. H. Auden: A Tribute. New York: Macmillan Publishing, 1975.

W. H. Auden: Collected Shorter Poems (1966)