Some Words on Those Wars by John Matthias


The wars at issue in Some Words on Those Wars are the two great World Wars. In 2020, John Matthias published a long selection of fiction and memoirs with Dos Madres called Tales Tall & Short. The present book is a kind of companion to that volume. In his preface, Matthias calls it a “hybrid” book because it contains both poetry and prose. One purpose is to contextualize as fully as possible a reprinting of both his long poem “Kedging in Time” (2007) and the essay engaging its history and allusions, “Kedging in ‘Kedging in Time.’” The poem was written in large measure as a tribute to his wife’s family, both sides of which produced British navy men ranging from midshipmen to admirals. Diana, Matthias’s wife who died in 2020, sailed her own small boat on the Suffolk River Alde. That, too, is treated in the poem, and the book itself concludes with an edited version, with commentary, of Pamela Adams’s “The Iron Pier,” in which she describes, as possibly the last living person to have witnessed it, the surrender of the German fleet at the end of World War I. Pamela was Diana’s mother.


Along with a group of shorter poems dealing directly or indirectly with the World Wars are six essays considering the one hundredth anniversary of the outbreak of World War I, David Jones’s little-known work “The Book of Balaam’s Ass,” the description of the first German gas attack in Malraux’s The Walnut Trees of Altenburg, W. H. Auden’s work following his immigration to the United States just before World War II, a note on a missed reference in Ezra Pound’s Pisan Cantos, and Katherine Anne Porter’s haunting short novel Pale Horse, Pale Rider, dealing with the postwar Spanish influenza, suddenly so newly relevant to us as a generation forced to live through our own pandemic.


  • Kind: Perfectbound
  • Pages: 320
  • Language: English
  • Date Published: June, 2021
  • ISBN: 978-1-953252-26-5


American Auden 
in World War II and After
(with a Glance at Spender and MacNeice)

In April of 1945, W. H. Auden had just put on the uniform of a United States Army major to take part in a Strategic Bombing Survey in Germany. Because he spoke German and had lived in Germany for some time during the 1930s, the Pentagon felt his knowledge would be useful and had asked him to participate in an attempt to discover how American bombing had affected the morale and the lives of German civilians (as if such a thing could be in doubt). He had been in America since January 1939, when he arrived with his friend and collaborator, the novelist Christopher Isherwood. Louis MacNeice, Benjamin Britten, and Peter Pears soon followed, but by 1945 Isherwood was in Los Angeles, Britten, Pears, and MacNeice back in England. Dylan Thomas had not yet begun his American reading tours, but they were soon enough to set off fireworks displays all across the continent. Stephen Spender’s postwar sojourns were less electrifying, but very regular. But only Auden and Isherwood became American citizens. . . .


John Matthias has published some thirty books of poetry, translation, criticism, and scholarship. For many years he taught at the University of Notre Dame, where he is still Editor at Large of Notre Dame Review. Shearsman Books publishes his three volumes of Collected Poems, as well as the uncollected long poem, Trigons, his two most recent volumes of shorter poems, Complayntes for Doctor Neuro and Acoustic Shadows, two books of memoirs and literary essays, and the novel Different Kinds of Music. Two collaborative books have been published by Dos Madres: Revolutions (with Jean Dibble and Robert Archambeau) and Regrounding a Pilgrimage (with John Peck).

Additional information

Weight 23 oz
Dimensions 9 × 6 × .75 in