The rest is silence

I have been thinking about ‘voice’ a lot recently as many of the poems in my Malta sequence are written in men’s voices, apart from the section in my mother’s voice as a young girl. We discussed the use of voice at the end of the last Cinnamon Press course. One of the other participants Mavis Gulliver is writing about the Scottish Slate islands and read a poem from the point of view of a woman whose name is not on her daughter’s gravestone – there is just the father’s name – very poignant.

The ‘voice’ I’ve heard most strongly whilst writing my poems is that of Taid, my grandfather with his North Walian accent and steady way of speaking. I have the advantage of having known him in real life as he did survive the war. With the others it has been a mixture of reading their accounts in the histories and ‘lost voices’ series and imagining how they might speak and finding interviews and recordings. So with the likes of Fred Treves (MN), Roger Hill (RN), Tom Neil (RAF), Eddie Baines (RN) it has been possible to hear them.

One of the frustrations of this project has been the relative silence from the men in the merchant navy. If they did survive the war and two out of three of them didn’t they didn’t talk about it and they certainly didn’t write books about it, not even the ships’ captains. There are some exceptions to this generalisation as I have found interviews with the master of the Ohio – the famous Operation Pedestal tanker. I would so much like to know what Thomas Horn, Master of the Sydney Star and John Scott, Master of the Ajax sounded like but instead I have had to take a leap of faith and imagination and trust that I’m getting it right as I re-tell their stories.

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