Douglas described his poetic style as 'extrospective'; that is, he focused on external impressions rather than inner emotions. The result is a poetry which, according to his detractors, can be callous in the midst of war's atrocities. For others, Douglas's work is powerful and unsettling because its exact descriptions eschew egotism and shift the burden of emotion from the poet to the reader. His best poetry is generally considered to rank alongside the twentieth-century's finest soldier-poetry.
In his poem, "Desert Flowers" (1943), Douglas mentions World War I poet Isaac Rosenberg claiming that he is only repeating what "Isaac" has already ... more »
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Keith Douglas Poems
How To Kill
Under the parabola of a ball, a child turning into a man, I looked into the air too long. The ball fell in my hand, it sang
Three weeks gone and the combatants gone returning over the nightmare ground we found the place again, and found the soldier sprawling in the sun.
Can I explain this to you? Your eyes are entrances the mouths of caves I issue from wonderful interiors upon a blessed sea and a fine day,
Shall I get drunk or cut myself a piece of cake, a pasty Syrian with a few words of English or the Turk who says she is a princess--she dances apparently by levitation? Or Marcelle, Parisienne
Villanelle Of Spring Bells
Bells in the town alight with spring converse, with a concordance of new airs make clear the fresh and ancient sound they sing.
Living in a wide landscape are the flowers - Rosenberg I only repeat what you were saying - the shell and the hawk every hour
Aristocrats: 'I Think I Am Becoming A Go...
The noble horse with courage in his eye, clean in the bone, looks up at a shellburst: away fly the images of the shires but he puts the pipe back in his mouth.
How To Kill
Under the parabola of a ball,
a child turning into a man,
I looked into the air too long.
The ball fell in my hand, it sang
in the closed fist: Open Open
Behold a gift designed to kill.
Now in my dial of glass appears
the soldier who is going to die.
He smiles, and moves about in ways
his mother knows, habits of his.
The wires touch his face: I cry
NOW. Death, like a familiar, hears
And look, has made a man of dust
of a man of flesh. This sorcery
I do. Being damned, I am amused
to see the centre of love diffused
and the ...