THE THREAT OF WAR: LITERATURE: Anthology of Peace Poetry Rushed out in Three Weeks
Christina Patterson Deputy Literary Editor, The Independent (London, England)
IN A LITERARY response to the groundswell of public opinion against war in Iraq, the country's leading poetry publishers will rush out an anthology of peace verse today.
Faber and Faber's 101 Poems Against War which includes Harold Pinter, Ted Hughes, Israel's Nobel nominated Yehuda Amichai, as well as new work by Seamus Heaney, is one of the fastest produced books in its history.
It was conceived by the chief executive, Stephen Page, who returned from his Christmas holiday determined to respond to the signs of war. The book is, he says, "a passionate piece of publishing that responds to a change in the world at large ... Writers and especially poets have always had strong views on the human experience of war, and we sought to gather them into this volume".
The Faber poetry editors Matthew Hollis and Paul Keegan spent every evening and weekend for three weeks locked away with piles of slim volumes. "We ploughed through two and a half thousand years of war poetry in that time," said Mr Hollis, "and not just from the English-speaking world. Other anthologies have tended to focus on poets who write in English, but we were keen to give it an international feel."
The book brings together poets from Russia, the Czech Republic, Poland, Nigeria, Japan and China, as well as Germany, America and England. Chaucer, Coleridge and Philip Larkin jostle with Miroslav Holub, Goran Simic and Iraq's leading poet, Saadi Youssef. Bob Dylan was excluded for copyright reasons, but there are poems about Vietnam, Cambodia and Northern Ireland.
The shortest in the book, "Ireland 1972" by Paul Durcan, is among the most poignant: "Next to the fresh grave of my beloved grandmother/The grave of my first love murdered by my brother. …