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Poems from Spain:

British and Irish International Brigaders on the Spanish Civil War

Edited by Jim Jump

Reviewed by Caroline Walsh, The Irish Times, July 29, 2006

This book costs £10.99 and should be available from good bookshops, if not try Amazon. It is published by Lawrence and Wishart

Where poets exploded like bombs

With the horrors of Iraq and Lebanon continuing, anniversaries of past conflicts can slip by almost unnoticed, as is the case with that of the Spanish civil war, which started 70 years ago this month. Coinciding with the anniversary comes publication of a slim (160 pages) but page-turning volume of poetry called Poems from Spain: British and Irish International Brigadiers on the Spanish Civil War.

While there have been well-known anthologies - notably The Penguin Book of Spanish Civil War Verse - this one is characterised by the fact that it's an anthology of poetry written only by people who went to Spain to throw in their lot with the Republican side between 1936-39, mainly as soldiers or as part of the medical services. Jim Jump, the editor, gives his rationale for the absence of some big names you might expect to see included: "There are no poems by WH Auden, Stephen Spender or others who made trips of propaganda value to Republican Spain and of whom unsubstantiated claims have been made of ambulance-driving, stretcher-bearing and even firing at the enemy." Jump does, however, quote Auden's line from Spain (1937) about the conflict being one that saw "poets exploding like bombs".

According to Jump, many brigadiers were irritated by the "poet's war" tag, with its implication that the conflict was the preserve of intellectuals, but he concedes that it did provoke a particular outpouring of verse in Britain and Ireland and caused many writers to rush to arms. One reason he proffers for this is that the great contemporary Spanish poets, including Lorca and Machado, had sided with the Republic. When, for instance, Jessica Mitford's first husband, Esmond Romilly, volunteered at the age of 20, his war luggage contained the works of Keats, Swinburne and Shelley.

The Irish poets in the anthology include, inevitably, the legendary Charles Donnelly (The Tolerance of Crows and Heroic Heart), who soon after enlisting transferred (like many of the Irish) from the British Battalion to the Abraham Lincoln Battalion, and who was killed at Jarama. Also included are Jim Haughey, from Lurgan (who died in the second World War), Ewart Milne, Joe Monks (both born in Dublin), Pat O'Reilly and Thomas O'Brien.

One of the most fascinating parts of the book is the biographical notes, which show that, contrary to popular perception, Oxbridge graduates didn't dominate the ranks. Mechanic, miner, accounts clerk, commercial traveller, pawnbroker's clerk, reporter, labourer and taxi driver are among the occupations listed. While many of the poems were published at the time, in periodicals such as Left Review, New Writing and Poetry and the People, many are published here for the first time and some are anonymous.

Among the better-known names included are Laurie Lee, John Cornford and Sylvia Townsend Warner. Published by Lawrence & Wishart and illustrated with intriguing photographs, the volume is sponsored by the International Brigade Memorial Trust, which maintains more than 60 memorials to the volunteers. Five writers killed in Spain - including Donnelly and Virginia Woolf's nephew, Julian Bell - are commemorated on a Madrid plaque in the Residencia de Estudiantes where Lorca and Machado once lived, behind the National Museum of Natural Sciences.

Published by Lawrence & Wishart, 99a Wallis Road, London E9 5LN, England; http://www.lwbooks.co.uk/

Contents

December 1936, Spain
Alès
Sunrise in the Pyrenees, May 1937
Salud!
Full Moon at Tierz Before the
Storming of Huesca
'Like molten gold the sun on high'
Beauty Is Found To Be Ugly
The International
The Internationalist
A Letter from Aragon
Spanish Lesson
Fuente-O-Venjuna
Marching Song of the 2nd Company
of the British Battalion
International Brigades
Dressing Station
Granien
'I have stood to upon some lousy dawns'
The Battalion Goes Forward
On Guard for Liberty
A Dying Comrade's Farewell to his Sweetheart
To Margot Heinemann
Battle of Jarama 1937
The Tolerance of Crows
''Twas postwar stalemate period'
Jarama Front
Jarama
Valley of Jarama
Heroic Heart
Thinking of Artolas
A Moment of War
Who Wants War?
'Munitions men'
Aragon Ballad
12 July 1937, An Ode to My Comrades
Brunete Wings Overhead
Sun over the Front
Poem in the Summer of 1937
Thaelmann Battalion
'Rest, I will know your all-pervading calm'
Lull in War
Ebro Crossing
Down the Road
Full Moon over Barcelona, 1938
To a Fallen Comrade
International Brigade Dead
To England from the English Dead
England
Spain, May 1st, 1938
Shared Cigarette
Farewell
Eyes
Song of the Night Market
The Nightingale
San Pedro
'The dead have no regrets'
Retrospect
The Hour Glass(1)
On the Statue of the Virgin
Salud, Brigade - Salud!
I Sing of my Comrades
'I wept the day that Barcelona fell'
In an Olive Grove
Remember
For Antonio Tessaro of Padua,
Missing in Aragon
1938 Fighter Pilot
For Spain and for Sam Wild
Jarama
Arise
Letter from the Underworld
'Have we no Dante for to-day's Aquinas?'
Aftermath
Monument
The Doomed
Hasta la Vista, Madrid!
Return to Spain
Comrades
I Wish I Were Back…
'The deserters, all three, complaining'
A Tribute
'I have lived in a time of heroes'

Clive Branson
Miles Tomalin
Tony McLean
Eric Edney

John Cornford
Frank Brooks
Thomas O'Brien
Clive Branson
Anonymous
John Cornford
Tom Wintringham
Joe Monks

Bill Harrington
Tom Wintringham
George Green
Tom Wintringham
David Marshall
Eric Edney
Thomas O'Brien
Pat O'Reilly
John Cornford
John Lepper
Charles Donnelly
Ralph Cantor
Tony Hyndman
Lon Elliott
Alex McDade
Charles Donnelly
Ewart Milne
Laurie Lee
Bill Feeley
Anonymous
Bill Harrington
John Dunlop
Miles Tomalin
James R Jump
Tom Wintringham
Aileen Palmer
Norman Brookfield
Tomalin Ebro
James R Jump
Tomalin Full
Tony McLean
Bill Harrington
Thomas O'Brien
Miles Tomalin
Clive Branson
Lorenzo Varela (translated by Lon Elliott)
James R Jump
Bill Harrington
Anonymous
Ewart Milne
Clive Branson
Clive Branson
Aileen Palmer
David Marshall
Ewart Milne
Clive Branson
Anonymous
David Marshall
Tony McLean
Bill Harrington
David Martin

Tony McLean
Jim Haughey
Anonymous
David Martin
Bert Neville
Aileen Palmer
Tony McLean
Miles Tomalin
Tom Wintringham
Thomas O'Brien
Bob Cooney
Bill Feeley
James R Jump
David Marshall
Thomas O'Brien
Hugh Sloan Joe Monks James R Jump
David Marshall
Paperback, 128pp, All rights L&W
ISBN: 1905007396
July 2006






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