The original War poetry

Over the last week I’ve been reading Homer’s Iliad, finding my way into this rather daunting epic poem eased by Robert Fagles excellent readable translation and Alice Oswald’s latest collection Memorial.

What Oswald does is to focus entirely on those who died – the boring bits as she refers to them. Of course Memorial is anything but boring.

I’m still pondering which structure to use for some of my Malta sequence and have been wondering about writing an extended poem, particularly for Operation Pedestal. This involved fourteen merchant ships, of whom only four survived to get to Malta. There’s the sheer determination of men like Commander Roger Hill of HMS Ledbury who risked his own ship to save seaman from the flames. The word Inferno is often used too lightly but it applies in the case of Waimarama with flames up to six hundred feet high – far higher than my mast as Hill says. Then there’s the Ohio (the ship that saved Malta). So a poem with multiple voices could work. I’m doing the usual writerly procrastination of putting off the writing but partly because it is hard reading about what the seaman went through – especially those who did not survive.

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