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Sidney Keyes (Sidney Arthur Kilworth Keyes) Biography

(1922–43), (Sidney Arthur Kilworth Keyes), Cherwell, Eight Oxford Poets, The Iron Laurel, The Cruel Solstice

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British poet, born in Dartford, educated at Queen's College, Oxford. As a student he edited the Cherwell and, with Michael Meyer, Eight Oxford Poets (1941), to which Keith Douglas, John Heath-Stubbs, and Keyes himself were the most notable contributors. The Iron Laurel, his first collection of verse, appeared in 1942, the year in which he enlisted in the army. He was killed after being captured while on patrol in Tunisia. He was posthumously awarded the Hawthornden Prize for a further collection entitled The Cruel Solstice (1943). His absorbing interest in myth and legend is reflected in much of his writing. Yeats was eminent among his declared influences, who also included Wordsworth, Rilke, and Jung. In the lengthy sequences ‘The Foreign Gate’ and ‘The Wilderness’ he aspired to a poetry that would embody a comprehensive metaphysical philosophy. His best work is, however, less consciously ambitious, holding his mystical intuitions in balance with sharply observed imagery drawn from English landscapes. Keyes's Collected Poems (1945) is prefaced with a memoir by Michael Meyer, who also edited Minos of Crete: Plays and Stories (1948), a gathering of Keyes's early work. Sidney Keyes: A Biographical Enquiry by John Guenther appeared in 1967. See also war poetry.

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