This is a book of poems about the battles around Malta in the second World War. It is written from the points of view of some of the combatants. Some of them are on Royal and Merchant Naval ships in a convoy trying to bring essential supplies to the besieged Maltese; some poems are written as if by fighter pilots struggling to keep the German and Italian bombers from bombing the island into submission.
As a history of this part of the war it has its interests and I was certainly keen to find out whether ships (and people) survived or not.
But it isn't my sort of poetry. I am an old-fashioned unsophisticated sort of chap when it comes to poetry. I like scansion. I like rhyme. In short, I like structure. If a poem doesn't have structure it has to be remarkably good to qualify as a poem. The difference between prose and this sort of poem, for me, is in the language. Poems can use words to convey feelings and ideas as precisely (although in an entirely different way) as a cryptic crossword. Thus 'the force that through the green fuse drives the flower' works as a line of poetry because of the alliteration; when Wilfred Owen rhymes nervous with knives us and war with wire it is the use of the false rhymes that put us on edge; when Rudyard Kipling talks about 'Boots, boots, boots, boots' it is the monotony of that rhythmic tread that defines the poem. Poems use the music of words.
There are moments in this book when that works. On page 38, in 'Don't...' we are told that 'The sky holds splattered smudges of ack-ack' which works (and I especially like the word 'hold') up until the 'ack-ack'. But a lot of the poems use dry unemotional words. To be charitable, one might assume that this is a deliberate attempt by the author to represent the stiff-upper-lips of the boys. But I don't understand why this is a book of poems.
Interesting as history with occasional moments of poetry. June 2013; 95 pages
- I live in Bedford, England. Having retired from teaching; I am now a research student at the University of Bedfordshire researching into Threshold Concepts in the context of A-level Physics. I love reading! I enjoy in particular fiction (mostly great and classic fiction although I also enjoy whodunnits), biography, history and smart thinking. I have also recently become a keen playgoer to London Fringe Theatre. I enjoy mostly classics and I read the playscripts and add those to the blog. I am a member of Bedford Writers' Circle. See their website here: http://bedford-writers.co.uk/ Follow me on twitter: @daja57