Keith Douglas


Keith Castellain Douglas is buried in the Tilly-sur-Seulles War Cemetery at Calvados in France, Europe.

Grave of Keith Douglas (Photograph by Romain Bréget)

He was educated at Christ's Hospital and at Merton College Oxford where his tutor was Edmund Blunden. His childhood was marred by his mother's illness, by the separation of his parents and by financial worries which threatened to curtail his schooling.

His poetry began to appear in periodicals in the 1930s but he only had one volume published in his life time which was Selected Poems (1943).

He signed up for WW II and after Sandhurst gained a commission in the Second Derbyshire Yeomanry and was posted to the Middle East in 1941 where he later took part in the second battle of EL Alamein as a camouflage officer.  His descriptions of wartime Cairo and the desert landscape were particularly powerful and his Alamein to Zem Zem was published after his death in 1946. While serving in the war he developed his poetic style using spare, energetic language and tried to capture the exterior of things with a technique he described as 'extrospective'.

He was killed in Normandy by enemy mortar fire while advancing on Bayeux - following the D Day Landing; he was 24 years old.

Ted Hughes was a big fan of his work and provided the introduction for his posthumous selection which appeared in 1964.

A Complete Poems appeared in 1979 - edited by Desmond Graham who also wrote a biography of Douglas.

Douglas is now primarily remembered as a War Poet - one of the smaller number of WWII poets.

As a white stone draws down the fish
she on the seafloor of the afternoon
draws down men's glances and their cruel wish
for love. Her red lip on the spoon

slips in a morsel of ice-cream. Her hands
white as a shell, are submarine
fronds sinking with spread fingers, lean
along the table, carmined at the ends.

(from Behaviour of Fish in an Egyptian Tea-Garden)





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