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February 05 , 2010

Walking Wounded: The Life and Poetry of Vernon Scannell


This uncompromising biography tells the story of a wounded D-Day veteran, a deserter, a violent drunk, a loving father who abandoned his first child, a boxer and brawler, a wife-beater, a bigamist, and a passionately romantic lover. It is also, most importantly, the story of a poet. Vernon Scannell wrote some of the finest poetry to come out of the Second World War. He won the Chomondeley Prize and the Heinemann Award, and for half a century he was acknowledged as one of the leading poets in the country. His Collected Poems are still in print, and his poetry for both adults and children is regularly anthologised and appears on English Literature examination papers. Scannell died in 2007, and Walking Wounded draws on his personal diaries, poems, and other writings to offer the first detailed study of this complex, controversial, and occasionally tragic life. For the first time, the women who loved him tell their stories; his children describe growing up with a father who was funny, affectionate, sometimes violent, and often not there at all; and his fellow poets, including Seamus Heaney, Anthony Thwaite, Alan Brownjohn and Kit Wright, speak of the dedicated stylist, assured performer, and occasionally roistering drunk that they knew. Scannell was seriously wounded in Normandy shortly after D-Day, but the book looks at the deeper, mental scars from the War that he bore all his life, and of the suffering they caused to him and the people who loved him. It is an important book about an important poet, which investigates where poetry comes from, and the terrible price that sometimes has to be paid for it.
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