Anthony Richardson : the RAF poet (8)

Anthony Richardson’s third and final book of poetry was called “Full Cycle: Verses of the Royal Air Force” and was published in 1946:

Personally, I don’t like it anywhere near as much as his previous two books. He seems to have turned away from what I will call the “Forceful simplicity” of his first two books into something far more poetic and far more difficult to understand, almost as if he wants to show people that he has invented a special poet’s language all of his own. This is a very common fault among poets and it must lose them lots of ordinary readers. I have only picked one poem from this short book.

It is called “Request September 1939” and the poem lists the requests to Death, or God, made by a member of the armed forces, about to go to war and likely to die in the struggle ahead:

When the Judgment Day trumpet sounds, he would not want to be sent automatically to the battlements of Heaven to fight the armies of Satan, but would prefer to linger closer to Earth where everybody has always been so nice to him.

I do not know, incidentally what “earthy bred” is, and neither does Google. I suspect that “bred” is one of those words which, over the centuries, has suffered a reversal of a Consonant-Vowel combination inside it. “Brunley and brid” swapped their Vowel-Consonant combination round to become, “Burnley and bird” respectively. “Bred” would then produce “berth”, which is nowadays a specialised name for a place where you sleep. “Earthy bred” then becomes your grave.

Here are the six things he would like to hear:

But most of all, he used to be a fisherman:

Anthony Richardson seems to have given up poetry at this point. He moved to writing novels of various kinds, mostly about crime.

He must have made quite a bit of money from two very successful non-fiction books.

They were “Nick of Notting Hill: The bearded policeman. The story of Police Constable J. Nixon of the Metropolitan Police”:

Probably the most successful was “Wingless Victory” with Sir Basil Embry (1950), the story of Sir Basil’s escape from Nazi occupied France after his Lancaster was shot down. Even now, it’s a good read:

I have a hankering to return to the subject of poetry in RAF Bomber Command during World War Two. John Pudney is an obvious candidate, along with Henry Treece and the relatively little known George Eades.



Filed under Aviation, Bomber Command, History, Literature, Politics, Writing

20 responses to “Anthony Richardson : the RAF poet (8)

  1. I would be more interested in his poetry myself.

    • Absolutely! I suppose, though, that once he left the RAF and lost that particular source of money, he had to do something to pay the bills. Most of his books are the kind of thing that nowadays would appear in an hour long special on Discovery History or another similar channel. Back in the 1950s though, England had very limited hours of television and I suppose people were keen to get their hands on a good story one way or another.

  2. I believe I still have a copy of Wingless Victory

    • I had a look at abebooks and it seems to have been a very good seller with a number of different editions. Pan stands at £2 the cheapest, and the Companion Book Club version is £6.49. So don’t expect to sell it and buy a Bentley, but it is quite a good story, perhaps better expressed as a TV film or a movie.

  3. I know I spent most of my life teaching recalcitrant youth to love the classics. But I personally, like my poems like whisky – simple and easy to understand. I liked this one.

    • I’m glad you enjoyed it! Clearly, there is little point in writing a poem that is so difficult to understand that it has to be translated. And talking of the classics there are whole swathes of nineteenth century literature that can be dismissed. In fact, in my world, you’re just left with “Ozymandias” and “Ivanhoe”.

  4. Jan

    John, just a suggestion for earthy bred. It might be an alternative for earthbred: a lowly position.

    • Thanks very much for that. I hadn’t thought of it. As far as I remember, Google had very little in the way of explanation, so all bright ideas are welcome!

  5. It’s been an interesting look into Richardson’s writing. I wonder why he moved from poetry to narrative, maybe narrative is more lucrative or he simply became tired of writing poems.

    • I think that you’re absolutely right. He was in the RAF, a sensitive man seeing death and fear all the time, men not coning back etc and that inspired him to write poetry. At this point he had a salary as an intelligence officer.
      But when he left the RAF, there was no more money, no war to comment on and so he started writing “true stories of daring” books. These were going to pay his bills. I wouldn’t have been too surprised if he’s not done a bit of TV writing too, but there’s little chance of tracing that.

  6. I preferred his earlier poems. Did he write those police books because he became a copper?

    • Fully agree with you, Lloyd, although we need to remember that he was seeing the war unfold over several years, which may have changed his opinions quite a bit. I think he turned to writing police books and a good few war ones because he needed a source of money to support his family and he knew people would buy them. In the census apparently, he gave his occupation as “writer”.

  7. Interesting . Thank you.

    • I’m glad you enjoyed it. He is a forgotten poet who wrote some beautiful poems, but now it’s on to something different. A little bit of “Alice in Wonderland”, and we haven’t quite finished with those fairies yet.

  8. Funny how some poets get so complicate you just scratch your head with your brain cramping. I am reading one such book now, and no matter how often I read this poem, I cannot make heads or tails of it. I got lost in the very first line that reads, “The Moon’s right hand …. Huh? LOL

    • I think that they are just showing off. They think they are cleverer than ordinary people because the ordinary people can’t understand them. The one exception is Shakespeare and it’s always worth reading the edition that has lots of notes to explain the language.

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