Monday, August 30, 2010

Daniel Swift's "Bomber County"

Daniel Swift has written for Bookforum, the New York Times Book Review, and the Times Literary Supplement.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Bomber County: The Poetry of a Lost Pilot's War, and reported the following:
Yup, it works like a charm. On page 99 of Bomber County you get a war story, a little poetry, some (possibly) dodgy maths, and an anecdote about a craps game between decommissioned bomber crews on Oahu in 1945. You also get to meet John Ciardi, translator of Dante, bestselling American poet of the 1950s, rear gunner on B-29s in the Pacific during the Second World War, all-round man of action and letters who once said, "Whenever my imagination runs cold and deep I go out and look at a B-29 for five minutes and I'm cured" (quoted on p. 99). Bomber County is about the strategic bombing campaigns of the Second World War, and the poetry written about those campaigns, both by those in the planes doing the bombing and those in the cities waiting to be bombed. My grandfather was a bomber pilot, with the British RAF, and he was lost in June 1943 on a raid over Germany. I decided to go and find him, and along the way I uncovered many long-forgotten poets, and their stories. Area bombing is a particularly violent, desperate style of warfare, but one of its compensations is the extraordinary culture the experience of bombing produced: amongst poets, photographers, novelists, diarists, journalists, and the many civilians who watched the bombs falling. Ciardi's story tells a little portion of the bigger story of the bombing war, but for me it also sheds light from an unexpected angle upon the life of my grandfather; all are parts of a largely forgotten history, and page 99 is a part of that.
Read more about Bomber County at the publisher's website.

--Marshal Zeringue