Keith Douglas (Keith Castellain Douglas) Biography
(1920–44), (Keith Castellain Douglas), New Verse, Alamein to Zem Zem, Selected Poems, Collected Poems
British poet, born at Tunbridge Wells, Kent; he began writing poems at the age of ten. He was educated at Merton College, Oxford, where Edmund Blunden was his tutor. From 1937 onwards his work appeared in a variety of periodicals, including Geoffrey Grigson's New Verse. He was posted to the Middle East in 1941 and became a tank commander in the North African Campaign, during which much of his finest poetry was written. He was killed soon after taking part in the D-Day landings in Normandy. Alamein to Zem Zem, his vividly documentary prose account of warfare in the desert, was published in 1946. The only volume of his poetry to appear in his lifetime was Selected Poems of 1943. His experiences of active service and wartime Cairo are presented through imagery of incisive clarity and a concentrated plainness of diction. The sometimes ruthlessly unsentimental quality of his work is intrinsic to the candour and detachment that are characteristics of his achievement. Although a Collected Poems was published in 1951, edited by G. S. Fraser and J. Waller, interest in Douglas's poetry was comparatively slight until Ted Hughes's selected edition of his work in 1964. Desmond Graham, whose biography Keith Douglas: 1920–1944 appeared in 1973, produced a Complete Poems in 1979 and a miscellany of Douglas's prose in 1985. See also war poetry.
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