I have always liked poetry, and although I’ve not written any since I left school, I like to read poetry when I am working on a novel. I often find great inspiration in the words and images of both classical and modern poets.
The reason I don’t like to read fiction, certainly during the writing of the first draft of my novels, is that it is so easy to become influenced, unintentionally by someone else’s style or rhythm.
Many years ago I met a young schoolboy poet, Antony Dunn and helped to sponsor the first published collection of his work. I was very thrilled when a few years later, in 1995, he won the Newdigate Prize for Poetry at Oxford – one of the most prestigious poetry prizes in our country – one of its previous winners was one of my great literary heroes, Oscar Wilde!
I have now sponsored another poetry venture in which this very talented young man is involved, this time a CD of the work of the War Poet, Rupert Brooke (“If I should die, think only this of me…”) , which has been made to accompany a one-man show of the work of this remarkable poet, who died in 1915. On the CD poems are read by an array of talent, including the Poet Laureate, Andrew Motion.
It is non profit making, with £1 from every copy sold to be donated to the Armed Forces Memorial Appeal, and the rest of the money goes to the production fund for the show itself. To download an MP3 of the Rupert Brooke poem Love, click here. To buy the CD online, visit the website of The Useful Donkey Theatre Company who produced it.
The First World War “War Poets” of which Rupert Brooke was the first of many to die, had a profound impact on me as a teenager, and I think had a profound impact on shaping our views on war, changing it from something of glory, as it had been perceived in the past, to something horrific as you can see in the words of another, Siegfried Sassoon:
At dawn the ridge emerges massed and dun
In the wild purple of the glow’ring sun,
Smouldering through spouts of drifting smoke that shroud
The menacing scarred slope; and, one by one,
Tanks creep and topple forward to the wire.
The barrage roars and lifts. Then, clumsily bowed
With bombs and guns and shovels and battle-gear,
Men jostle and climb to meet the bristling fire.
Lines of grey, muttering faces, masked with fear,
They leave their trenches, going over the top,
While time ticks blank and busy on their wrists,
And hope, with furtive eyes and grappling fists,
Flounders in mud. O Jesus, make it stop!