PN Review Print and Online Poetry Magazine
Most Read... Rebecca WattsThe Cult of the Noble Amateur
(PN Review 239)
Mark FordLetters And So It Goes
Letters from Young Mr Grace
(aka John Ashbery)

(PN Review 239)
Kei Millerthe Fat Black Woman
In Praise of the Fat Black Woman & Volume

(PN Review 241)
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)
Next Issue Jen Schmitt on Ekphrasis Rachel Hadas on Text and Pandemic Kirsty Gunn Essaying two Jee Leong Koh Palinodes in the Voice of my Dead Father Maureen Mclane Correspondent Breeze
Poems Articles Interviews Reports Reviews Contributors
PNR 250 Poetry Archive Banner
Monthly Carcanet Books
PN Review Blog

This review is taken from PN Review 83, Volume 18 Number 3, January - February 1992.

CROW-LIKE OR KEATS' LIKE? Barry Webb: Edmund Blunden: a Biography (Yale University Press) £18.50

What an anachronistic figure Edmund Blunden seems, and as Barry Webb makes clear in his sympathetic biography, Blunden himself was painfully aware of the anachronism: 'Why slept I not in Flanders clay / With all the murdered men?' The guilt of the survivor speaks there. In a sense, Blunden was always looking back: to his childhood in Kent, and all the intimate knowledge of the rural year it provided; to his schooling at Christ's Hospital, where he was introduced to some of the poets and essayists of the 18th and 19th centuries who became an abiding interest; above all, to the First World War. Of British soldier-writers, only David Jones spent as long in the trenches. Those three and a half years never ceased to haunt him, and keeping his comrades' memory alive was, as Webb says, 'a life-long trust'.

This devotion was paralleled in Blunden's patient promotion of the work of then unfashionable poets such as John Clare and Ivor Gurney, his edition of Wilfred Owen's work bringing together the two causes of war and poetry. Such qualities of nostalgia, piety, melancholy and reverie - all present in his own poetry - suggest a fairly solitary, book-laden existence in some country cottage, with the one violent interruption of the war. The biography includes a chapter on cricket - about which Blunden was passionate, but a chapter is too much; and a pleasant chapter on his book-collecting - he died in possession of ten thousand volumes, carefully ...


Searching, please wait... animated waiting image