Posts Tagged ‘poetry’

Good-Bye To All That / Robert Graves

In this memoir, first published in 1929, poet Robert Graves recounts his (and Britain’s) loss of innocence as a result of World War I. In the first chapters, he sketches his childhood days, schooling, and how he began to write poetry. But a large part of the book is taken up by his experience as a soldier during the First World War.

Because of his college background, he entered the conflict first as a lieutenant, then a captain in the Royal Welch Fusiliers. He goes to great lengths to show what daily life was like in the trenches, highlighting the incompetent leadership that led to the senseless slaughter of soldiers on both sides of the conflict. What I found most fascinating was the friendship he struck up with another well-known poet, Siegfried Sassoon, who was an officer in the same unit. It is amazing that both men continued to turn out critically acclaimed poetry in the midst of such a bloody conflict.

Graves depicts the growing disillusionment he began to feel about the Great War. Even so, he remained loyal to the cause for the sake of the soldiers serving under his command. In 1916, he was seriously wounded and sent back to England. Although the condition did not have a true name at the time, he recounts how post-traumatic stress continued to haunt him in the years that followed.

This book was hastily written at a time when Graves was leaving England­­­–he thought forever–and when he was in need of money. The haste shows, as the author jumps awkwardly from story to story, often switching topics at random. While the war is his primary focus, he also touches upon the rise of feminism, socialism, the loss of his religious faith, and the various spats he had with other writers at the time.

Good-bye To All That does not rank as one of Graves’ best works. After 1929, he went on to write more than 120 books as a poet, novelist, translator, and historian. There are far better books available about the trench warfare in the First World War. It will probably be best appreciated by fans of Graves who want to know more about the author’s earliest days before he became an established writer.

Advertisements

Exuberance

If winter
did not silence the most
ardent tongue,
the crickets would still
be dominating
the night’s conversation.
Overripe, beneath
our bedroom window,
an insomniac
garden would yet be abuzz.
Or carried by
the breeze from the lake,
a heron’s splash
might startle us awake.
Instead, winter’s
hushed reticence haunts
troubled dreams.
Having already forgotten
such sounds,
how we long for April’s
noisy exuberance.

Give Us This Day

Give us this day our daily bread,
with a cup of coffee hurry us out the door,
steer us clear of traffic back ups,
deliver us from road rage and speed limits,
absolve our transgressions as
we compete to reach the front of the queue,
shelter us with annuities
and guide us sanely through the red tape,
protect us from downsizing
and bores, postpone that moment of clarity
when mortality is confronted,
turn a deaf ear as we whine and backstab,
and if we cannot forget our ex,
help us to forgive them when we remember
how they failed to appreciate,
then having seen us safely back home again,
grant a final wish for tired feet,
there in the recliner with a glass of chablis,
give us this night our cable TV.

Skeletal Remains

November, eschewing
colorful finery,
has draped the mornings
with a gauzy shroud,
somberly swathing
autumn’s skeletal remains
in funeral attire.

Not that the water is
any deeper, but
sobering to a murky hue,
November’s lakes
in slanted sunlight,
without a shade of blue,
seem unfathomable.

Twilight briefly flares
and turns the trees
into smoldering charcoal,
November’s skyline
a dying lantern,
guiding the hunters home
come the supper hour.