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New illustrated edition of Undertones of War coming soon!


Edmund Blunden's celebrated prose memoir, written in a rich, allusive vein, full of anecdote and human interest, is unique for its quiet authority and for the potency of its dream-like narrative. Once we accept the archaic conventions and catch the tone - which can be by turns horrifying or hilarious - Undertones of War gradually reveals itself as a masterpiece. It is clear why it has remained in print since it first appeared in 1928.

This new edition not only offers the original unrevised version of the prose narrative, written at white heat when Blunden was teaching in Japan and had no access to his notes, but provides a great deal of supplementary material never before gathered together. Blunden's 'Preliminary' expresses the lifelong compulsion he felt 'to go over the ground again' and for half a century he prepared new prefaces, added annotations. All those prefaces and a wide selection of his commentaries are included here - marginalia from friends' first editions, remarks in letters, extracts from later essays and a substantial part of his war diary. John Greening has provided a substantial introduction discussing the bibliographical and historical background, and brings his poet's eye to a much expanded (and more representative) selection of Blunden's war poetry. For the first time we can see the poet Blunden as the major figure he was. For the first time, too, Undertones has an index and the chapters are given clear headings, events placed within the chronology of the war.

Blunden had always hoped for a properly illustrated edition of the work, and kept a folder full of possible pictures. The editor, with the Blunden family's help, has selected some of the best of them.

John Greening is winner of the Bridport and TLS Prizes and recipient of a Cholmondeley Award. He has reviewed poetry for the TLS since the late 1990s and is a judge for the Eric Gregory Awards. A teacher for many years, he is about to take up the position of RLF Fellow at Newnham College Cambridge. His interest in the war poets led him to write Poets of the First World War for Greenwich Exchange in 2003, a book which included an appreciative essay on Blunden. There have been further critical studies of Elizabethan love poets, Yeats, Hardy, Edward Thomas and Ted Hughes along with a Poetry Masterclass. As part of the ongoing WW1 commemorations, John Greening has performed his poetry at Vaughan Williams' house with the singer Roderick Williams and read alongside Sir Andrew Motion at King's Place. He appeared on Radio 3's The Verb in 2014 discussing war poetry and reading from the latest of over a dozen collections, To the War Poets (Carcanet). This collection includes a verse letter to Blunden. The book was described in Stand magazine as 'masterly in placing the addresses to writers past in a vibrant present... with a convincing imaginative scope and freshness' and drew praise from the war poetry authority, Harry Ricketts. In 2015, his encyclopaedic music anthology of 'poets on composers', Accompanied Voices, appeared from Boydell and Brewer (it features Blunden's poem about Gilbert & Sullivan's Mikado). 2016 sees the publication of John Greening's collected essays and reviews of poetry, Vapour Trails, together with a pamphlet of his Egyptian poems - and in a major collaboration with the poet Penelope Shuttle, a book of poems about the area around Heathrow.

Visit his website for further details about John and his work.

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