little corner of England (19) 2nd draft
Jun 22, 2012
James Farrar’s Words Home *
In the archives, pasted bound
letters loop, black ink against onionskin, the sky
all clear, this boy has no fear just knows the known:
little corner of England, little England in May. is to die for—
the mourning doves, the pearl grey haze above Bodmin Moor;
bluebells really do grow in the woods;
he was always meant to fly.
Refuse elegy. Transgress the patent
all war poetry is not despair.
lean into life pasted bound
his maroon notebook
grounded in the archives alive
in letters looped, black ink against onionskin
*James Farrar was a WWII pilot and poet who died, age 21, on a routine mission over the English Chanel in 1944. His papers are in the University of Exeter Archives.
note: my English colleagues are having difficulty with my description of England as “little” and this has provoked a fascinating discussion between us. There is some discomfort for them with perceived associations with the Rupert Brooke sonnet, ‘The Soldier,’ post-colonialism, and the idea of “Little England.” I tell them that I am writing from the point of view of the post-post-colonized, i.e. as a Canadian I’m very confident in my own country’s sovereignty, history and destiny and geography … in other words, we’re over it! Also, I try and explain to them that coming from a nation the size of Canada, this island IS tiny, physically and otherwise. My reference to “Little England” in the piece is multi-layered and intentional, contemporary and historical, literal and figurative… Finally, James Farrar and others like him, including MANY, MANY Canadians, died defending this little island. And when I write, ‘Little corner of England. Little England in May. is to die for.’ (the full stop is intentional too!) I mean to say that anyone who loves that which is finest in this little rain-soaked island in the North Atlantic – ‘the bluebells’, ‘the pearl grey haze above Bodmin Moor’, the sound of the ‘mourning doves’, will understand what James Farrar, and those Canadian boys died for, not so long ago.