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This poem is taken from PN Review 177, Volume 34 Number 1, September - October 2007.

Jack Beeching's Poetry: A Selection Barry Wood

Jack Beeching was born in Sussex in 1922. He published his first poems in a pamphlet called Personal and Partisan in 1940. His early poetry shows the influence of Yeats, the First World War poets, and Auden; but the major influence on the development of his poetry was undoubtedly Edgell Rickword. Rickword's own poetic practice, his rigorous but open-minded interpretation of European and Anglo-American modernism and his left-wing political orientation attracted a young poet inventing his own style and discovering his political direction at the time. Rickword remained a mentor and friend up to his death in 1982. Beeching himself died after a long illness, in Mallorca, in 2001.

Beeching served in the Royal Navy during the Second World War - mainly, like Donald Davie and Frank Kermode, on the North Atlantic and Arctic patrol - and after the war joined left-wing literary and political circles in London. He worked as advisory editor for Lawrence & Wishart and contributed to the magazines Arena and Our Time. He earned a living in the late 1940s and 1950s as a reviewer, advertising copywriter and, occasionally, a teacher, and continued his work as a journalist at the end of the 1960s with a regular column in the Times Educational Supplement. Like other poets of his own and the previous generation he also dashed off a number of novels, at least one of which - Let Me See Your Face (1959) - deserves reviving. He was also a considerable historian, writing books on The Chinese Opium Wars (1972) and The Galleys of Lepanto (1982) as well as editing Hakluyt's Voyages & Discoveries (1975) for Penguin.

But poetry was his vocation, though he received precious little recognition for it. Apart from a selection in Penguin Modern Poets 16 (1970), his poetry appeared almost exclusively in small press publications and it may be this - together with his expatriate and peripatetic life from the late 1950s and a style rather against the grain for the 1950s and 1 960s - that accounts for the failure of readers and critics to recognise his contribution to post-war poetry in English. His work is substantial and diverse. It represents an important continuity between the pre-Second World War poets such as Rickword, Stevens and Crane, for example, and the modernists and post-modernists - in Britain, the United States and Australia - in the latter half of the last century.

This selection of some of his shorter poems indicates his stylistic range and thematic preoccupations. A fuller re-assessment of his life, his work as a historian and his achievement as a poet can be found in two articles by Bill Luckin and Barry Wood in jacket (October 2004 and April 2006).

Beeching's Poems 1940- 2000 (2001), published by Collection Myrtus, is available from 67 Sunnyside Road Chesham Bucks HP5 2AP.

Victory Ballad

The boys run singing
Just like certain others.
I take no heed of them,
Remembering their fathers.

As if all my grief
Had been expended once
For those in the Arctic
And others in France.

As if this old wound
Were knitted and mended
...


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