Summer sale, half-price spotlight: Alun Lewis

Half price Alun Lewis summer sale

Our Legend of the Month’s extraordinary war poetry, short stories, and biographies (written by John Pikoulis) are all included in the half-price summer sale – and the offer ends this Sunday.

Who was Alun Lewis?
Alun Lewis was born on the 1st July, 1915 in Cwmaman. A pacifist by nature, Lewis nevertheless eventually joined the Royal Engineers as World War Two broke out, and later qualified as a Second Lieutenant despite how unhappy military life made him. In December 1942, he arrived at a new station in Nira, India, and in the same year his poetry collection Raiders’ Dawn was published. It would be the only collection published during his lifetime. Lewis died on 5th March, 1944, in what many maintain to be a tragic accident. After his death came the publication of his second collection of poetry, Ha! Ha! Among the Trumpets (1945), followed by Letters from India (1946) and In the Green Tree (1948). Most recently, Lewis’ lost novel from the 1930s, Morlais, (2015) has been brought into print for the first time, marking the centenary of this great writer’s birth.

See below for our selection of Alun Lewis titles.

Alun, Gweno & Freda by John PikoulisAlun, Gweno & Freda, John Pikoulis
£14.99  £7.49
Alun Lewis maried Gweno Ellis in 1941, but they were almost immediately separated as Lewis prepared for his deployment with the British army’s Royal Engineers. Alun, Gweno & Freda delves into the charged relationships Lewis maintained with Gweno, and with Freda Ackroyd, an expatriate in India, arguing both were key to his writing and his mental health. The circumstances surrounding Lewis’ death by a single shot from his own gun are illuminated, too, contributing to the ongoing debate about whether this was an accident or suicide.

Alun Lewis Collected PoemsAlun Lewis: Collected Poems, ed. Cary Archard
£9.99  £4.99
Lewis’ remarkable body of poetic work is skillfully brought together by editor Cary Archard. The Collected Poems includes the complete texts of his two published books, Raiders’ Dawn (1942) and Ha! Ha! Among the Trumpets (1945), reprinted in chronological order and retaining the important
original section headings under which Lewis chose to arrange and group his poetry. Lewis’s two collections are a remarkably detailed and full account of the experience of becoming a soldier and going to war. As Archard states, ‘no-one can read this collection of poems, together in one volume for the first time, without being struck by how the singularity of his voice permeates a surprising diversity of forms’.

Morlais Alun LewisMorlais, Alun Lewis
£12.99  £6.49
South Wales. The Depression. Choices for young people are limited yet miner’s son Morlais Jenkins seems destined to follow the educational route out of Glannant, despite his lowly background. When the local colliery owner and his wife offer to adopt Morlais on the death of their son, his parents recognise the opportunity for an even brighter future for Morlais. But what price must each of them pay? As the story unfolds through turbulent times in their mining village, Morlais comes to a new understanding of life as he grows from a young boy into a young man.
Founded on vivid and authentic passages of everyday life, Morlais is an enthralling story of place and people and shows what an exciting talent was lost when Alun Lewis died aged only twenty-eight.

Alun Lewis: A Life, John PikoulisAlun Lewis: A Life, John Pikoulis
£8.95  £4.47
From his childhood days in the depressed valleys of South Wales, Lewis felt he had a vocation to be a writer. Pikoulis traces Lewis’s development from the remarkable schoolboy stories written as an unhappy boarder, through his university education at Aberystwyth and Manchester to his return to the valleys as a teacher. Lewis’s poems and stories, authentic and moving, were popular with both readers and critics, catching the tone of the ’phoney war’ years, and later the disturbing but exciting experience of his war in India. His vivid letters home, which have been compared to Keats’ letters, capture both the atmosphere of war and the essence of Lewis’s character, and Pikoulis draws on them to portray a fascinating man and writer.

 

Half price summer sale Seren

 

 

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Friday Poem – ‘To a Comrade in Arms’, Alun Lewis

Alun Lewis To a Comrade in Arms Friday Poem

Our Friday Poem this week is ‘To a Comrade in Arms’, by our featured Legendary Author of the month, Alun Lewis.

Alun Lewis Collected Poems‘To a Comrade in Arms’ was originally published in Lewis’ first collection Raiders’ Dawn, which appeared during his period of service in Burma during World War Two. Raiders’ Dawn featured fourty-seven poems, and effectively answered the critics’ questions about the absence of war poets in that conflict. Alun Lewis is often seen as a poetic mouthpiece for the reality of the Second World War, his poetry faithfully communicating the mundane and sombre details he experienced.
In 2015, to celebrate the centenary of Lewis’ birth, we published Alun Lewis: Collected Poems, which contains this and other poems from Raiders’ Dawn, plus a selection from Ha! Ha! Among the Trumpets (1945), and uncollected poems. A body of work which has endured and which transcends the label ‘war poetry’, Collected Poems is complete in itself, and full of promise of greater things.

 

Friday Poem To a Comrade in Arms Alun Lewis

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Alun Lewis: Collected Poems is available from the Seren website: £9.99

Join our free Book Club for 20% off every book you buy from us

Legend of the Month: Alun Lewis

Legend of the Month Alun Lewis

Each month we are celebrating one fantastic Seren author in honour of Wales’ Year of Legends. This month the spotlight falls on Alun Lewis.

Alun Lewis, the remarkable Second World War writer, died aged twenty-eight in Burma during the Second World War, but produced a vast number of poems and short fiction in the years previously.

Born and brought up near Aberdare in south Wales, Lewis read history at Aberystwyth and Manchester. After a brief period teaching and despite pacifist inclinations, he enlisted in the Royal Engineers. He later joined the South Wales Borderers and was posted to India.

Becoming a soldier had a stimulating effect on Lewis’s writing: Raiders’ Dawn, a collection of forty-seven poems, appeared in 1942 and early in 1943, The Last Inspection, a book of short stories, was published, both to considerable critical acclaim. Lewis died in an accident on active service in Burma in 1944. His second volume of poems, Ha! Ha! Among the Trumpets, was published in 1945 and his Indian short stories, together with some letters, in In The Green Tree (1948). Morlais, Lewis’ previously unpublished novel from the 1930s, was published by Seren in July 2015 to mark the centenary of his birth.

Find out more about Alun Lewis’ life and writing in John Pikoulis’ latest biography, Alun, Gweno & Freda, an illuminating account through the particular prism of Lewis’ relationships with his wife Gweno and Freda Aykroyd, an expatriate in India. If you’d like to read Alun Lewis’ poetry, we recommend Alun Lewis: Collected Poems, a body of work which has endured and which transcends the label ‘war poetry’.

 

Find a great selection of books by our other legendary writers on the Year of Legends page.

And don’t forget to sign up to our free, no-purchase-necessary Book Club for 20% off every book you buy from us.

 

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The true story behind Alun Lewis’ poem, ‘Burma Casualty’

In January 1943, after fracturing his jaw during a regimental football match, Alun Lewis spent 6 weeks in Poona Hospital. In this blog post, Maggie Evans, whose father lay injured in Poona in the bed next to Lewis’, tells the true story behind the poem ‘Burma Casualty’.

As a child, “My Dad’s in a poem”, was my default position when any Dad boasting was called for.  “Don’t believe you”, was the usual reply, but here I had them.  I could run to the shelf and produce the evidence. There, in a slim volume entitled Ha! Ha! Among the Trumpets, was the poem, entitled ‘Burma Casualty’ and even more exciting, with a dedication – To Capt. G. T. Morris, Indian Army – My Dad!

It was years before I actually read the poem and even longer before I was capable of understanding it, but the magic of a special poem about my own special Dad has never faded.

Dad was born on 12th July 1911 in the Eastern Valley of South Wales. His given names were Thomas Griffiths but he was always known as “Griff”. To me and my two older brothers he was just our Dad, and the fact that he had one stiff leg shorter than the other and had to wear funny, built up shoes was of no consequence. We were children of the Second World War and post War period – war wounds were common. Dad didn’t ever let this hamper him. He wouldn’t accept a Disabled Badge for instance, and wouldn’t countenance anyone thinking of him in this way. He carried us on his shoulders and took us swimming and walking just like any other Dad and so I never fully understood the extent of his injuries until recently, when following a house move, I found bundles of his letters and photographs from that time. Reading the letters he sent from hospital in Poona sent me straight back to the poem – and now for perhaps the first time I was able to understand it.

In February 1942 Dad was fighting in the Burma Campaign with the 17th Indian Division which was decimated at the Battle of Sittang Bridge during a retreat from the Japanese. He was badly wounded, carried off the bridge by unknown hands, and ended up in hospital in Poona where he remained until late 1943.  Earlier that year he had for six weeks a new neighbouring bedfellow – one Alun Lewis, also a Welshman, who had sustained a shattered jaw in a football match. The sharing of his experiences with Alun resulted in ‘Burma Casualty’.

Thomas “Griff” Griffiths in Poona Hospital
Thomas “Griff” Griffiths Morris in Poona Hospital

Re-reading the poem now reveals how much Dad shared with Alun of his pain and fear – showing that at times he might have welcomed death as a release from his own physical pain and from the loss of so many comrades.

Thomas Griffiths and his wife on their wedding day
Thomas Griffiths Morris and his wife on their wedding day

But his letters to his sister from the same time show that as he recovered, his focus was on re-stablishing his family life with my Mum, his childhood sweetheart, and my oldest brother, born in 1940, whom he had never met.  He resisted Death, the ‘beautiful singing sexless angel’, preferring ‘his wife’s sweet body and her wilful eyes’ (though, like any child, however advanced in age, I confess to being unable to think of my mother in these terms without feeling slightly queasy!)

 

 

Dad never spoke of his experiences of jungle warfare and rarely mentioned his time in hospital. When pressed, he spoke of his friend, Alun Lewis, as something of a tortured soul. As an adult I have come to understand and love Alun’s poetry, not because he allowed my childhood self to hold its own on the boasting front, but for his luminous verse with its dark undercurrents. I can now say with pride, “my Dad knew a true poet’.

burma-casualty

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

‘Burma Casualty’ is one of the many poems featured in Alun Lewis: Collected Poems. Buy your copy now from our website: £9.99.

 

Friday Poem – ‘All Day It Has Rained’, Alun Lewis

Friday Poem All Day It Has Rained Alun Lewis

On this day, one of the best-known English-language poets of the Second World War came into the world. Alun Lewis was born on 1 July 1915 in Cwmaman, Wales.

A year later, on 1 July 1916, the British Army would see its bloodiest day as The Battle of the Somme commenced, and over 57,000 British Soldiers became casualties on the first day alone.

Our Friday Poem this week is both in celebration of Alun Lewis’ birth, and in remembrance of all those who fought and died on the Somme.

Alun Lewis
Alun Lewis All Day It Has RainedSome critics see Lewis as the last of the great Romantic poets, a twentieth century Keats. Others view him as the bridge between pre-war poets like Auden and Yeats to post-war poets such as Hughes and Gunn. He was born and raised in Depression-struck south Wales and, following degrees in history at Aberystwyth and Manchester, became a teacher there. Early in 1940, despite his pacifist inclinations he enlisted and, after long periods of training, joined the war in India.

‘All Day It Has Rained’ was written whilst Lewis was stationed with the Royal Engineers at Longmoor, Hampshire. It is among the poems featured in Alun Lewis: Collected Poems.

All Day It Has Rained

All day it has rained, and we on the edge of the moors
Have sprawled in our bell-tents, moody and dull as boors,
Groundsheets and blankets spread on the muddy ground
And from the first grey wakening we have found
No refuge from the skirmishing fine rain
And the wind that made the canvas heave and flap
And the taut wet guy-ropes ravel out and snap.
All day the rain has glided, wave and mist and dream,
Drenching the gorse and heather, a gossamer stream
Too light to stir the acorns that suddenly
Snatched from their cups by the wild south-westerly
Pattered against the tent and our upturned dreaming faces.
And we stretched out, unbuttoning our braces,
Smoking a Woodbine, darning dirty socks,
Reading the Sunday papers – I saw a fox
And mentioned it in the note I scribbled home; –
And we talked of girls and dropping bombs on Rome,
And thought of the quiet dead and the loud celebrities
Exhorting us to slaughter, and the herded refugees:
Yet thought softly, morosely of them, and as indifferently
As of ourselves or those whom we
For years have loved, and will again
Tomorrow maybe love; but now it is the rain
Possesses us entirely, the twilight and the rain.

And I can remember nothing dearer or more to my heart
Than the children I watched in the woods on Saturday
Shaking down burning chestnuts for the schoolyard’s merry play,
Or the shaggy patient dog who followed me
By Sheet and Steep and up the wooded scree
To the Shoulder o’ Mutton where Edward Thomas brooded long
On death and beauty – till a bullet stopped his song.

 

Buy your copy of Alun lewis: Collected Poems from the Seren website. Become a Book Club Member to claim 20% off your order.

Want to see more Alun Lewis titles? Take a look at our website for biographies, short stories, poetry, and Lewis’ previously unpublished 1930’s novel, Morlais.

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Friday Poem – Christmas Holiday

This week’s poem is from Alun Lewis’ Collected Poems. Merry Christmas!

Alun Lewis (1915-1944), the remarkable poet and story writer, died, aged 28, in Burma during the Second World War. Some critics see him as the last of the great Romantic poets, a twentieth century Keats. Others view him as the bridge between pre-war poets like Auden and Yeats to post-war poets such as Hughes and Gunn. He was born and raised in Depression-struck south Wales and, following degrees in history at Aberystwyth and Manchester, became a teacher there. Early in 1940, despite his pacifist inclinations he enlisted and, after long periods of training, joined the war in India.

Becoming a soldier galvanised Lewis’s writing. By 1944 he had written two collections of poems and one of short stories, all published to considerable acclaim. Firmly established with Keith Douglas as the leading writer of the Second World War, Lewis’s death in an accident while on active service was huge loss to English literature. This Collected Poems comprises a body of work which has endured and which transcends the label ‘war poetry’; it is complete in itself and full of promise of greater things.

Christmas Holiday

Big-uddered piebald cattle low
The shivering chestnut stallion dozes
The fat wife sighs in her chair
Her lap is filled with paper roses
The poacher sleeps in the goose-girl’s arms
Incurious after so much eating
All human beings are replete.

But the cock upon the dunghill feels
God’s needle quiver in his brain
And thrice he crows: and at the sound
The sober and the tipsy men
Jump out of the bed with one accord
And start the war again.

The fat wife comfortably sleeping
Sighs and licks her lips and smiles

But the goose-girl is weeping.

Order Alun Lewis’ Collected Poems from our website.

Read for Remembrance

November will always be a month in which we remember the sacrifices of our ancestors, those who fought, and those who died doing so. 2015 marks not only 70 years since the end of the Second World War, but also the birth of the Welsh war writer, Alun Lewis, whose centenary we have been celebrating throughout the year.

One of the most important things we can do is to ensure we never forget the fighting that both horrified and defined the 20th century, and so, as we thank both the fallen and those who made it home, we hope you’ll take a moment to peruse some of war-themed titles, and help us to honour Remembrance Day in the best way we know how.

Lest we forget.

after the first death

After the First Death: An Anthology of Wales and War in the Twentieth Century
ed. by Tony Curtis

This anthology contains writing by many of the greatest authors of Wales. From Wilfred Owen and David Jones, Dylan Thomas and Dannie Abse to Christopher Meredith and Gillian Clarke, it spans a century which saw both the barbarism of mechanised warfare and the development of mass communication, mass literacy and a flourishing of creative endeavour.

After the First Death draws on the experience of those who have faced death on the battlefield, and on others who have sought to put into words the complex philosophical, political and emotional responses that military action demands. Including poetry, extracts from fiction, memoirs, letters and biography, the book moves from World War One via the ideological battleground of the 1930s into the Second World War, then through the Cold War, Vietnam, the Falklands and the Gulf wars.

Men_Who_Played_the_Gamergb

Men Who Played the Game
by Mike Rees

The Great War marked a profound change in attitudes to war and the conduct of it. Six million men from the British Isles served in it, 720,000 (12%) were killed. Junior offices had a 20% survival rate; up to 80% of a battalion could be lost. Battle had changed from engagement by professionals to wholesale, mechanized slaughter. The effect on servicemen and those at home was profound, perhaps never more so than in the case of sportsmen, who fought ‘battles’ on the pitch or in the ring according to rules devised for fair play.

Men Who Played the Game explores the development and importance of sport in Britain and the Empire leading up to the outbreak of the First World War, and the part played by sportsmen in the conflict. The book opens with revealing chapters of how various sports – the fans, the governing bodies and the sportsmen themselves – reacted to the outbreak of war.

The bulk of the book tells the stories of individuals and groups of sportsmen, combining accounts of their pre-war sporting success and their military experience. It covers several sports – rugby, football, cricket, athletics, tennis, boxing; social hierarchy – ‘gentlemen’ and ‘players’; several nationalities – English, Welsh, Scottish, Irish, Australian, New Zealanders; and several  theatres of war – Western Front, Gallipoli, Africa, the Middle East. Here are stories about the famous Hearts football team, soccer stars Leigh Rhoose, Jimmy Speirs and the first mixed race footballer Walter Tull. Rugby Union is represented by All Black captain Dave Gallagher, British Lion David Bedell-Sivright and a swathe of England captains; cricket by the fate of the Kent County side and Booth, Jeeves and Burns: three all-rounders killed on the Somme.

Historian Mike Rees has written an invaluable guide to the relationship of sport and war, to the state of sporting Britain, and a moving testimony to the fate of so many sportsmen.

Alun Lewis Collected Poems_Layout 1

Collected Poems
by Alun Lewis

Alun Lewis (1915-1944), the remarkable poet and story writer, died, aged 28, in Burma during the Second World War. Some critics see him as the last of the great Romantic poets, a twentieth century Keats. Others view him as the bridge between pre-war poets like Auden and Yeats to post-war poets such as Hughes and Gunn. He was born and raised in Depression-struck south Wales and, following degrees in history at Aberystwyth and Manchester, became a teacher there. Early in 1940, despite his pacifist inclinations he enlisted and, after long periods of training, joined the war in India.

Becoming a soldier galvanised Lewis’s writing. By 1944 he had written two collections of poems and one of short stories, all published to considerable acclaim. Firmly established with Keith Douglas as the leading writer of the Second World War, Lewis’s death in an accident while on active service was huge loss to English literature. This Collected Poems comprises a body of work which has endured and which transcends the label ‘war poetry’; it is complete in itself and full of promise of greater things.

lovewar

Love & War
by Siân James

Siân James brings her customary narrative flair and ear for dialogue to this beautifully-observed novel of love, scandal and grief set in wartime rural Wales.

For three years, young teacher Rhian Evans has lived a life of isolation in her small village, patiently awaiting the return of her soldier-husband, Huw. While Rhian struggles to stay true to her strict Chapel upbringing, her carefree lodger Ilona Hughes apparently has no such concerns, seeming to live life as she pleases.

As Rhian’s loneliness grows, Ilona’s influence leads her friend to confront the conflicting passions at work within her. Faced with the interests of art-teacher Gwynn Morgan (a married man with whom Rhian fell in love before meeting her husband) she finds herself questioning the morals imposed upon her by her upbringing, and eventually even her love for her absent husband. Soon, Rhian’s revived affections for Gwynn overpower both her loyalty to Huw and the disapproval of certain members of the community, leading the couple to embark on a passionate affair, just as Gwynn himself is called-up to fight.

But Rhian’s sadness at his departure is nothing compared to her devastation when she learns of his death only a few weeks later; wracked by grief, loneliness and guilt, she endeavours to make peace with her community, and particularly with Gwynn Morgan’s urbane French widow.

Perceptive, funny and moving, Love & War is a poignant and beautifully-plotted portrait of one rural community during the Second World War.

owen, ellen, sian b, arthur:owen, ellen, sian b, arthur

Kerry’s Children
by Ellen Davis

Ellen Davis was born in 1929 in the small German village of Hoof. Her Jewish family had lived there since 1760 but its peaceful existence was shattered when Hitler came to power and German Jews were persecuted.

Ellen’s autobiography tells the harrowing story of her childhood struggle to protect her younger brothers and sisters from the terrors of life in Nazi Germany and her escape to Swansea via the Kindertransport.

This is also the moving story of Ellen’s life in Britain, the difficulties of her first marriage and her love for her own Welsh children as she finds happiness in a new relationship. Meanwhile she continues to search for her German family and relatives in Australia, Israel and the US – a search which ends finally, heart-rendingly, in Riga in Latvia. Ellen Davis tells her story simply and honestly. In recent years she has given many interviews about her life and spoken about it especially to young people.

Friday Poem – Autumn, 1939

This week’s poem comes from the Collected Poems of WW2 writer Alun Lewis, whose centenary we are celebrating throughout the year, to mark the Autumn equinox which occurred earlier this week.

Alun Lewis (1915-1944), the remarkable poet and story writer, died, aged 28, in Burma during the Second World War. Some critics see him as the last of the great Romantic poets, a twentieth century Keats. Others view him as the bridge between pre-war poets like Auden and Yeats to post-war poets such as Hughes and Gunn. He was born and raised in Depression-struck south Wales and, following degrees in history at Aberystwyth and Manchester, became a teacher there. Early in 1940, despite his pacifist inclinations he enlisted and, after long periods of training, joined the war in India.

Becoming a soldier galvanised Lewis’s writing. By 1944 he had written two collections of poems and one of short stories, all published to considerable acclaim. Firmly established with Keith Douglas as the leading writer of the Second World War, Lewis’s death in an accident while on active service was huge loss to English literature. This Collected Poems comprises a body of work which has endured and which transcends the label ‘war poetry’; it is complete in itself and full of promise of greater things.

Autumn, 1939

The beech boles whiten in the swollen stream;
Their red leaves, shaken from the creaking boughs,
Float down the flooded meadow, half in dream
Seen in a mirror cracked by broken vows,
Water-logged, slower, deeper, swirling down
Between the indifferent hills who also saw
Old jaundiced knights job listlessly to town
To fight for love in some unreal war.

Black leaves are piled against the roaring weir;
Dark closes round the manor and the hut;
The dead knight moulders on his rotting bier,
And one by one the warped old casements shut.

Order Collected Poems from our website.

The 2015 Timothy Corsellis Prize

ypn

The Young Poets Network have brought back the Timothy Corsellis Prize after a very successful year in 2014, and this year Alun Lewis has a small part to play!

Lewis is one of six WW2 poets – the others being Keith Douglas, Sidney Keyes, John Jarmain, Henry Reed, and Timothy Corsellis himself – whose life and/or work poets from ages 14-25 are encouraged to respond.

Timothy Corsellis was a young pilot, and poet, who was killed in 1941 when the plane he was piloting stalled and crashed. He was only 20 years old. The Timothy Corsellis Prize has been set up in his name, with the support of his family, to encourage people to read the work of the lesser-known poets of the Second World War.

This year there is also a Young Critics Prize, for short essays of 500-1,500 words discussing which of the poets are most likely to be read in 20 year’s time and why.

The deadline is Sunday 6th September, so why not get involved? You can find out everything you need to know about entering, and more information about the prize, here!

Lost & Found

Recent years have been fantastic for Wales in the literary world. 2014 saw the centenary of Dylan Thomas, this year we’re celebrating the centenary of Alun Lewis, and next year, 2016, marks the centenary of Roald Dahl.

This year in particular has been a big year for the publishing world as a whole. As well as our centenary celebrations for WW2 writer Alun Lewis, 2015 marks 150 years since the publication of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and has even seen the publication of Harper Lee’s second novel, Go Set A Watchman, 55 years after the publication of To Kill a Mockingbird.

But Go Set A Watchman isn’t the only “lost” novel to be published this year. This year at Seren we’re publishing Morlais, a novel by Alun Lewis that was thought lost until last year.

Morlais cover

Following in the footsteps of Richard Llewellyn’s How Green Was My Valley, Morlais is set during the Depression in south Wales, and follows Morlais Jenkins and his struggle when he finds himself caught in the middle of the class divide. From a long line of miners, Morlais finds his talents lean more towards poetry and academia, and when he is adopted by the local colliery owner’s wife after the death of her own son his struggle with his identity begins.

Will you be reading Morlais this year?

Don’t forget to follow our Alun Lewis Twitter and Facebook, and check out the Alun Lewis website!