BJ. William Plomer


9. Selected Poems. London: Hogarth, 1940. 2nd ed., 1946.

Reprints The Aburaya (4e2) and Captain Maru (7) and includes the noted poem, which had not appeared in an earlier collection. A later South African edition of Plomer’s Selected Poems (1985) does not include work related to Japan.

a. Thoughts on the Japanese Invasion of China, 1938. In spite of the events of the late thirties Plomer could not write of Japan without fond remembrance. This work opens with the evocation of a domestic scene, and recalls details Plomer had savoured a decade earlier, the ‘taut paper and clean wood [that] enclose / A neat, sweet domestic place / Where slant sun and magic snows / Alter the shadow on a well-loved face’. But even in his earlier writing on Japan Plomer perceived a ‘dualism’ in the ‘Japanese nature’ (see especially 3e and 10c-d), and the poem turns to images of the brutality of the Imperial Army in China, and finds that ‘shy fingers end in claws, / Behind soft lips are teeth that bite, / And a vast uneasy longing roars / Up like a bomber through the night’. Alexander notes that later, as the Pacific War raged, Plomer gave a series of talks about Japan on the BBC, but that these nearly had been rejected because they were so ‘soft’ on the Japanese (40, p. 263).





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