Tuesday, 24 March 2009

Erudition as a tool

Keith Douglas was one of the first poets to captivate me – his music was intoxicating for this teenage reader, while I also connected with the concrete imagination that he filtered through his wartime experiences.

Even now, I can’t resist playing the same game once more – speculating as to how his work and life might have evolved if he’d survived. As they develop, many poets step further and further back from life in order to understand it from fresh perspectives; for reasons mentioned above, Douglas took the opposite route.

I’m convinced that Douglas is a major poet, that his overall reputation is still hindered by the tag of “war poet”. The afore-mentioned astutely concrete imagination seems unique to me among his contemporaries. Not shying from his erudition, he learnt to use it as a tool, not a badge.

Back to the initial question - would the breadth of his poetic ambition have turned him into an exile from post-war Britain or would it have found young Movement poets and ignited something special…?

I do still love this game!

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