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4 July 2018updated 09 Sep 2021 3:36pm

Ivor Gurney Goes to War

A new poem by Octavia Lamb.

By Octavia Lamb

He wants to take the organ pipes
from Gloucester Cathedral, and paper
enough for notes of both kinds.
If need be, he thinks, the pipes
could be rearranged into a hundred tin hats,
or stuffed with gunpowder, cartridges
composed from leftover notes,
but he hopes it won’t come to that.
Already he dreams in French, in names
that sound to him like songs,
Laventie, Picardie, Merville, Somme.
Or could they be the tempo of the piece,
he wonders: the orders for some to advance
slowly, while others should play on
as fast blood dries, as quick as ink.

This poem is the winner of the inaugural Roehampton/Wimbledon BookFest Robert Graves Prize.

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This article appears in the 04 Jul 2018 issue of the New Statesman, England in the age of Brexit