PN Review Print and Online Poetry Magazine
Most Read... Henry Kingon Toby Martinez de las Rivas
(PN Review 244)
Eavan BolandA Lyric Voice at Bay
(PN Review 121)
Vahni CapildeoOn Judging Prizes, & Reading More than Six Really Good Books
(PN Review 237)
Tim Parksin conversation with Natalia Ginzburg
(PN Review 49)
M. Wynn ThomasThe Other Side of the Hedge
(PN Review 239)
Jamie OsbornIn conversation with Sasha Dugdale
(PN Review 240)
Next Issue Alberto Manguel Selbstgefühl New poems by Fleur Adcock, Claudine Toutoungi and Tuesday Shannon James Campbell A Walk through the Times Literary Supplement
Poems Articles Interviews Reports Reviews Contributors
PNR 250 Poetry Archive Banner
PN Review New Issue

This article is taken from PN Review 240, Volume 44 Number 4, March - April 2018.

War Games George Szirtes
Childhood and play, plays and theatre, theatres of stage and theatres of war, war and the stages of childhood: it is as if we walked through them by association in a single dream. Where we find the one we find the other, each giving on to the other. Here is the world, they say. Get on with it.

Peter Scupham was just six when the Second World War broke out and he spent the next six years in it. Childhood was a game of spot, hide, collect, and transform. Turn pink ham into a swastika, turn puff-pastry and lardy-cake into Goering, the whole into ‘a cataract of cold regalia’. ‘The soldiers are the figure in my carpet’ goes the last line of ‘War Games’, a poem in which the child plays at soldiers while the adult remembers Henry James’s short story of that name. A time bomb ‘is ticking away under house and home’ (‘The Stain’). Children elsewhere are dying. Bombers are taking off into the sky never to return. There are ‘handfuls of metal rain on a dark street’ that the child will later collect.

It is worth starting with the ‘And Little Wars’ sequence of The Air Show (1988) because this – at least partly – is where imagination begins, in the childhood wardrobe of memory and play. The image of war establishes itself early as a motif to which Scupham returns time and again. In the theatre of the mind where memory, mask and miracle fuse into an image of the ...

Searching, please wait... animated waiting image