“Poetry Afternoon”

I have chosen a War Poet from the Second World War Period, I hope you will enjoy it

Keith Barnes  –  Born  –  November 12, 1934    –  Dagenham, Essex, England.

Died  –  September 10, 1969 at the young age of 34  –  Paris, France.

He lived with the author Jacqueline Starer, they met in Paris in 1963.  He devoted himself entirely to writing, they lived together until his Death.

Keith Barnes was born to a modest family in Dagenham in Essex.  He was far too young when he died at the age of 34 years, from Terminal Leukemia.

He was six years of age when the Blitz hit the East End of London, where he was living with his family, before he was evacuated twice.

What he witnessed of the bombings of civilian targets left him marked for life.  As a child he painted watercolours with his Grandfather.   When he was 12 years of age he obtained a scholarship to study at The Royal Academy of Music.  When he reached 15 years of age he was Awarded the First Prize in Compositions.  Some of his works were played by the East London Music Festival.

He appeared to be destined for a career as a composer when in 1959, Keith Barnes destroyed all of his musical compositions with the exception of a cello suite.   It was one year later that he wrote “Devaluation”, which was inspired by World War II, but as well the two preceding Wars..   His first poem was published by The Times Literary Supplement.

Keith Barnes published three collections;  Born to Flying Glass – 1967.    The Thick Skin  –  1968.   Ain’t Hung Yet  1969.

Keith Barnes’s work includes poems about War and Post-War, about Love, society and about writing.  His writing style was simple, accessible and concrete.  Sometimes close to childhood, sometimes funny, sometimes serious, sometimes familiar, sometimes tragic, humor is omnipresent.  His voice was distinct, profound, full of emotion but also sarcasm and melancholy, it is the voice of a poet who died far too soon.


I looked at the penny in my hand


three years before my grandmother was due

You were the penny my great-grandad spent

tossing you proudly while you blinked

my grandfather clenched you in his clammy fist

sent scuttering for a bag of broken biscuits

father stuck you in one eye

feigning for friends  Lord Fauntleroy

Now you blink no longer being blind

Time opened your eyes to blow in thorns and sand

Time lifted your lids to search and saw

complacency grown fecund

thrust in three wars – The Boar – The Great – The Second

Great-grandad tossed his grenade at a Boer

grandfather clenched curdling throats seared with gore

father stuck bayonets through fat and through thin

until they in turn smacked the the dust in death’s grin –

while you passed from pocket to pursue till and shelf

marking the years with your dumb vagrant self

while you stayed pretty for thoughts and round

wise plain honest and in for a pound

I looked at you lying there in my hand

should I accuse you?  I asked

accuse you for making it all seem such a farce?

for passing through what you had not planned

for waiting against the waiting and the dying

against the tearing – bleeding crying?

Can I accuse the water for reflecting

flying birds as I do you for passively accepting?


you are mnemonic of our guilt


I crouch and dig a hole and bury you



Vera Lynn, Britain’s Most Loved Lady.  I was born 1949 and Vera Lynn has always been so “special” to the UK.  She went everywhere to entertain the Troops and they loved her, still do.





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