Poetry of the Second World War brings to light a neglected chapter in world literature. In its chorus of haunting poetic voices, over a hundred of the most articulate minds of their generation record the true experience of the 1939-45 conflict, and its unending consequences. In keeping with its subject, it has an international scope, with poems from over twenty countries, including Japan, Australia, Europe, America and Russia; poems in which human responses echo each other across boundaries of culture and state. Auden, Brecht, Stevie Smith, Primo Levi, Zbigniew Herbert and Anna Akhmatova are set alongside the eloquence of unknown poets. The anthology has been arranged to bring out the chronological and cumulative human experience of the war: pre-war fears, air raids, the boredom, fear and camaraderie of military life; battle, occupation and resistance; surviving and the aftermath. Here at last, are the poems of the Holocaust, the Blitz, Hiroshima; of soldiers, refugees and disrupted lives. What emerges is a poetry capable of conveying the vast and terrible sweep of war.
Desmond Graham teaches English at the University of Newcastle. He is the author of Keith Douglas: 1920-1944, a much acclaimed biography; he has also written two volumes of poetry, The Lie of Horizons and The Marching Bands.
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