Of Love and War. Vernon Scannell. 1922-2007 New and Selected Poems
November 16th is the 10th anniversary of the death of Vernon Scannell.(23rd January1923 -16th November 2007)
This seemed as good as any time to read a self-selected collection of his poetry, some new but most previously published in book or magazine form. He worked on this collection in his eightieth year and describes in a beautifully written introduction his belief in the art of poetry and its requirements. Also of his disdain for the written poetry rising at the start of the 21st century and throw-away performance poetry designed to be ‘disrupted-verse’ ( my ‘word’ not his).
He admitted that poetry had always been performed and ‘performance’ may have included his view of an extravagance that was acceptable for the event but unnecessary for written poetry. This clashes somewhat with the idea that poetry is best read out loud but maybe it’s the degree. However he gave no allowance to work turning into the first decade of the 21st Century, which is his perspective, not mine.
I previously reviewed Epithets of War
I read ‘Epithets of War’ not so long ago and was quite taken up by his style which frequently sought to maintain a more traditional, or at least, Victorian-cum-Tennyson format. His experiences as soldier at war and boxer may well have helped his appreciation of technique. His choice of words was no doubt also influenced by a life that was frequented by difficult physical situations and sights.
A poet of international standing in his day, numerous prize winnings and often a visiting reader of his work. From a man who is also known as a soldier from El Alamein to Normandy. As a boxer both amateur and professional. Making him a poet of the physical world.
Scannell’s awareness of the subtlety of metre and words can create an unexpected softness from their often terse and blunt meaning. His poetry, often tough in language, cannot hide the variations of love that filter through. Vernon Scannell is frequently classified as a war poet (fair enough) but reading his own excellent introduction to this book, his commitment is to ‘poetry’ and far more can be taken from his poems. This collection broadens the view you may have of his work. Two sides of the same coin, you might say with compassion, nostalgia, less than subtle humour tucked in and imagery; all through straightforward storytelling. Each poem a complete entity and leading you onward to the next.
Do read his introduction.