The Poetry of A Lost Pilot's War
A New York Times Book Review contributor analyzes the abundance of poetry inspired by World War II while researching the life and fate of his missing-in-action Royal Air Force pilot grandfather, examining the relationship between the conflict's bombing campaigns and its poetry.
In early June 1943, James Eric Swift, a pilot with the 83rd Squadron of the Royal Air Force, boarded his Lancaster bomber for a night raid on Münster and disappeared.
Widespread aerial bombardment was to the Second World War what the trenches were to the First: a shocking and new form of warfare, wretched and unexpected, and carried out at a terrible scale of loss. Just as the trenches produced the most remarkable poetry of the First World War, so too did the bombing campaigns foster a haunting set of poems during the Second.
In researching the life of his grandfather, Daniel Swift became engrossed with the connections between air war and poetry. Ostensibly a narrative of the author’s search for his lost grandfather through military and civilian archives and in interviews conducted in the Netherlands, Germany, and England, Bomber County is also an examination of the relationship between the bombing campaigns of World War II and poetry, an investigation into the experience of bombing and being bombed, and a powerful reckoning with the morals and literature of a vanished moment.
The author analyzes the abundance of poetry inspired by World War II while researching the life and fate of his missing-in-action Royal Air Force pilot grandfather, examining the relationship between the conflict's bombing campaigns and its poetry.
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