Thursday, March 15, 2012

011. No More Hiroshimas. James Kirkup. Appreciation By P S Remesh Chandran


No More Hiroshimas. James Kirkup. Appreciation By P.S.Remesh Chandran

Editor, Sahyadri Books & Bloom Books, Trivandrum

23rd Mar 2011.


01. Article Title 1 Image & Graphics By Adobe SP.

Mankind hates to destruct, in spite of the destructive traits inherent in man. In his heart, man is a good being who likes to preserve mankind's achievements intact for the posterity. But politics is most often not led by men, but by mobs and crowds. Wars, when fought by single persons, have always turned out to be good to the world: Socrates, Tolstoy, and Louis Pasteur. When fought by people commanding vast armies, they turned hell loose on the world: Attila, Timur, Adolph Hitler.

292 years free of war, in a history of 5500 years.

02. US bombers moving to Japan over Mount Fuji By US Federal Archives.

In the history of mankind, no desire has been older and stronger than the desire for a world without wars. For centuries, peace in this world only meant the interval between two wars. Swiss historian Jean- Jacques Bebel calculated that out of the 5500 years' history of the world, only 292 years remained free of any wars. Two World Wars originated from the soil of Germany. But in Europe the guns are comparatively silent now. People hope that the clock of history won't be turned back again.

Sumi-ko, War And Peace and The Flowers Of Hiroshima.

03. But for Imperialism! Matsumoto Castle By 663 Highland.

Anti-War Literature, Arms-Limitation and Political Detènte brought about this favourable situation. Countless novels like War And Peace, Sumi-ko and The Flowers Of Hiroshima, and dozens of plays like Henrik Ibsen’s Ghost taught human mind to synchronize itself with political upheavals and outbreaks in society caused by the opportunism and profiteerism of leading persons and, at the same time and in the midst of these chaos, practice the negative virtue of tolerance also. Wilfred Owen and James Kirkup were just two of the hundreds of anti-war poets who added the influence of their poetry too to the great body of this world-wide movement for peace.

Three-headed fishes and children with no head at all: the balance-sheet of a megaton blast.

04. Pre-war serenity in Japan By Σ64.

The atom-bomb which blasted in Hiroshima in the Second World War wiped out millions of people from the face of the earth. Millions more survived only for subjecting themselves to life-long agony. They remained more dead than alive. Three-headed fishes and children with no head at all were common spectacles in the affected areas for so many years. Radio-activated patients overcrowded hospitals in cities and villages in Japan, their sustaining and affording became a national problem, and ate into the already scant resources of the nation. Catastrophe continued through generations. Destructions of war were horrific and great and their relics were exhibited in War Memorials and Museums to remind the world that the wayward and war-driven politicians cannot be depended on anymore for the care of humanity.

The poet- traveller who finally arrives in Japan to settle.

05. Hiroshima City before the bombing By Leonardo G.

James Falconer Kirkup was a poet, translator and travel-writer born in England. His poems, plays, novels and autobiographies made him a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature. After a few years living an eventful life in his island nation of England, he longed for the continents and travelled through and resided in Europe, America, Far East, and finally reached Japan where he settled for 30 years and taught English Literature in several Universities. He was very skilled in writing Haiku Poems and for this reason was much respected by the Japanese. The Emperor of Japan and the Empress invited him to recite poetry in their presence, and he was presented with many prestigious awards there. No More Hiroshimas was his famous poem in which he revealed to the world the commercialized post-war faces of Japan.

A river once polluted refuses to be rehabilitated and remains sad for ever.

06. Hiroshima City after the bombing By Leonardo G.

In the poem we see the poet arriving at a railway station in the atom bombed and reconstructed city of Hiroshima. He cannot quite identify which city it is, since all cities look the same in the post-war Japan. It resembles any other town in Japan, as all towns are noisy, muddy and ramshackle alike after the war. In the dim dew-falling evening, he walks towards the city centre. Neon exhibits of traders attract his attention. They are advertising Atomic Lotion for hair fallout. It looks ridiculous to this much-travelled poet, but who knows what the pain and frustration of those whose hair falls out rapidly daily is? Remember that rapid hair fall out is an after effect of atomic radiation. Like Oliver Goldsmith wrote in his long poem Deserted Village, he feels, 'trade's unfeeling train has usurped the land and disposed of the swaine.' Whatever had remained unsellable in the pure and proud tradition of the Japanese for centuries are now being made sellable to attract tourists and to collect revenue for sustaining their wrecked nation. He passes rows of fruit stalls and meat stalls, soaking up the scenes around him on his way, and finally reaches the river. The face of Hiroshima was changing. Losses were recompensed and destructions were repaired. Everything was being restored to its former position or rehabilitated to the nearest-possible condition. But the river alone 'remains unchanged and sad, refusing any kind of rehabilitation.' The river symbolizes the once-proud and sad stream of life in the city. Once polluted and downgraded, it can never be rehabilitated to its former form, however hard we try. 'The Hiroshima River- it was the pride of a bold peasantry that was broken and hurt.' We must remember one thing here: Hiroshima and Nagasaki were two great industrial cities which contributed much to the war machine of Japan- in fact the backbones of the imperialist war-hungry nation. Japanese soldiers’ atrocities in other cities in other countries during the war were such heinous that it was decided to atom bomb Japanese cities rather than German. Remember also that the Second World War stopped immediately after the atom bombs dropped on these Japanese cities. The general consensus was that there was no other way. It was not a question of trial-running the first atomic bombs but of rescuing the world from further Japanese and German holocausts.

  07. Article Title 2 Image & Graphics By Adobe SP.

The traveller and the poet fight in a dilapidated hotel room.

08. A melted down clock from Ground Zero By James Sydney Australia.

In the city proper, the poet finds life busy, splendid, and ornamental. People seem to have forgotten what have happened in their city. In some shops, cheaply decorated mini models of the famous bombed Industry Promotion Hall are on display for sale. The indecent modernity of the tourist hotel in which he stays displeases him. The twisted stair cases which witnessed the mega blast and kept as such as a memorial and a tourist attraction appear like they may collapse and fall anytime. He feels 'the contemporary stairs treacherous, the corridors deserted and people-less, his room in the hotel an overheated mortuary, and the bar, a bar in darkness.' The traveller poet is uncertain as to whether he should grieve or relish the unrepaired state of the heavily damaged and dilapidated hotel where he stays. The traveller in him craves for comfort, while the poet in him longs for the city’s up-keeping of nostalgic status-quo on things wrecked in the world war.

The power to forget is the greatest faculty of the oriental mind.

09. Japanese surrender before the United States By U S National Archives.

When a nation and a people feel they are wronged, it is general agreement that they have a right to be angry. But in the city of Hiroshima the poet sees it was evident the people forgot everything too soon. Their sorrow seems to have short-lived. He has his own European logic in such matters and is angry that their anger too has gone dead. He is plain in his poetic nature to speak that anger should not die but should be kept alive till all war-destructions are avenged. As an old saying goes, 'To forgive is to cut the branches of the tree; but to forget is to lay axe to the very roots’: though not his lines, it reflects well his philosophy. It has to be noted here that the poet was born and brought up in Britain, has travelled through Europe and lived many years in Europe, America and the Far East and has only arrived in Japan recently. He knows nothing about the workings of the Oriental Mind or about the great Japanese patience. Oriental Mind houses unlimited tolerance, deliquescence and magnanimity. Had it been otherwise, great philosophies like Hinduism, Jainism and Buddhism would not have originated from their soil. Also, had the orient been vengeance-hungry, their places would have become vast burial grounds for the colonial British. Had man had to remember everything from his birth onwards, his brain would become overcrowded to the point of bursting. That was why Nature gifted man with the power to forget, as a pressure-valve to release the anger inside and pacify mind- the very essentials to running an oriental mind.

  10. Article Title 3 Image & Graphics By Adobe SP.

Imperialist Japan was asking for this bombing of their industrial city, before they could bomb all industrial cities of the world.

There is also the question of whether Japan deserved this bombing. The imperial forces of Japan, joining military hands with the German Nazis who were dreaming of a thousand years’ reign of the Reich in the world, and sharing with a Fascist Mussolini the hallucinatory vision of carving out and sharing the world three ways between them, were conquering peaceful countries one after the other, and everywhere there was the only question of who would teach these killers a lesson and stop them. The unnatural allies Soviet Union and the United States joined together when Pearl Harbour was attacked by Japan, the communist countries Poland and Hungary fell before Germany and the land of freedom France was marched through. Britain joined them when Singapore was captured by Japan and London was heavily bombed. The Manhattan Project where the atom bomb design and development was going on began to progress with rocket speed and hence the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki at the right time! It was simply a decision to destroy Japan before Japan, Germany and Italy destroyed the world. Japan surrendered and Hitler shot his rifle through his mouth; and within a few days the Second World War came to an end. Japan was asking for this bombing of their industrial city of Hiroshima before they could bomb all the industrial cities of the world. It is true that the people of Japan could not be made responsible for the activities of their emperor but the fact remains that without these people this emperor would have been a great helpless zero. It can be said that it is only right that Japan should forget, and forgive, this destruction of their two famous cities, without ever forgetting that the incineration of the thousands of innocent children in the explosions will remain a shame on the conscience of the world. Had it been it were all the mad politicians and war-mongers in Japan, German and Italy been fried in these explosions, it would have been better and fine.

'How times are altered, and trade's unfeeling train usurps the land!'

11. Children's Peace Monument in Hiroshima By Taisyo.

But in Japan, the poet sees instead, atomic peace being geared to meet the demands of the tourists' trade. War relics are renovated for promoting tourism industry, adding new charm, loveliness and nobility to them. But the poet feels that this renovation is a shame and indignity to those sacred relics, sacred in the sense that every one of them contains the last breath of a passing soul. As indignated already, they are beyond all hope of further indignation by anyone. Athens in Greece is a city conquered and ravished by so many aggressors in so many generations. There, ancient ruins and modern constructions co-exist beautifully and add to the tourist revenue of Greece. They are never renovated but kept as such, reminding the world the horrendousness of the attacks. The great ruins are the real charm there. The poet who made extensive travels in the Mediterranean must have seen them all and is following the same logic here.

Who will not weep when they see it, if they see it?

12. Tranquility restored. A Garden near Hiroshima Castle By Fg2.

It is when he reaches the Park Of Peace that the emotional poet finds something perfectly appealing to his orthodox tastes, i.e., true Japanese tastes. It is the only place in Hiroshima City that rouses respect in his mind. It is a monument for the children who were blasted away in mankind's crime. The various exhibits in the War Memorial Museum moved him and he wept. Melted bricks and slates, photos of various scenes after the blast and other relics of the explosion were arranged there for all the world to see. The other relics which made the poet weep were watches all stuck at that fated time, burnt clothing, charred boots, twisted buttons, ripped kimonos, atomic rain-perforated blouses and the cotton pants in which blasted boys crawled to homes to bleed and breathe their last. When we see these relics we will invariably think about the people who wore them, who were inside them, their lovely faces and radiant smiles all blotted out in a single blast of heat and light and sound- women, men, little children and old people. We will be reminded of how we will be annihilating one another in the future. We can go to this doom or live peacefully: it is our choice. According to the poet, they are the only memorials of the war, worth viewing. When we come to this part of the poem, we come to agree with the poet that war remains shall not be sold or grief commercialized, however poor we are. The poet has finally perfectly convinced us of this ages-old adage of all traditional people. War relics are the properties of our dead, people who lived and played and laughed with us. Possessions of the dead are sacred and are not to be sold. When death occurs in a home, it is when we see the clothes worn by the bygone person hanging there or lying somewhere there that a lump is formed in our throat and we begin weeping. It is a feeling not to be written, told, expressed; a feeling so sacred and private to the soul of humans that even its utterance is crime.


James Falconer Kirkup was born on 23 April 1918 in South Shields in Durham as the only son of a carpenter. His earliest studies were at South Shields Secondary School and Armstrong College at the University of Durham. During the Second World War, Kirkup was a farm labourer who opposed wars. Even before the war ended, his first volume of poetry The Cosmic Shape had come out in London in 1946 in co-authorship with Ross Nichols.

Even while teaching French and German at the Downs School and a Grammar School and having his second collection of poems The Drowned Sailor been published in 1947, he grew up such unconventional and unorthodox- in his own words ‘Bohemian Freedom’- that typists to editors were known to have refused to type some of his words in poems. For example: the poem The Convenience which described the recreational activities of men in urinals. Remember that though the world was opening up as a result of two world wars, England was still an orthodox country in many ways and its people frowned upon such licentious freedoms. Any ordinary man would select his home in a peaceful village or a suburb. But do you know where he selected his? In the Red Street! Anyway, his literary genius was such undeniable and recognized that he was appointed the First Fellow in Poetry at Leeds University in 1950 following an award from the Rockefeller Foundation- the first resident university poet in England. In 1953 he found his way to the Bath Academy as its Head of the Department of English. But how could a true Bohemian control his true whims and instincts? In 1956 he left England and embarked on a lecture tour through Europe and landed at the Kyoto University, Japan after years as Professor of English Literature at their Department of Foreign Studies.

Though he never learned Japanese language well, he became an expert in using their special poetical forms Haiku and Tanka in English poetry and soon became a favourite of the Emperor and Empress of Japan. They summoned him to palace to listen to his poems and showered upon him awards and university positions. And by this time he had been made a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature in England in 1964. His name was often heard connected with Cardiff and Sheffield Universities at this time. But the great drift began when he published a poem carnally assaulting Christ. There were prosecution and legal proceedings against the printer and the editor of the news paper which came to nothing in the end. Kirkup himself admitted later that it was a bad poem, bad in everyway including literary conception and poetical beauty. But he never came anywhere near England for a long time but stayed away. In 1988 he moved permanently to his little haven and eyrie in the small country of Andorra in the Pyrenees Mountains in Europe between France and Spain, and spent his last years till 10 May 2009 there. He died aged 91 years. What an adventurous life! Compared to the strictly Victorian and conservative poets like Tennyson before him and others in his time in England, Kirkup was a flamboyantly brilliant personality, wearing kimonos, obedient to no rules except his own, and an exceptionally individualistic and overly self-loving genius. In his escapades, he can be compared only with Lord George Gordon Byron.

13. Andorra, The last haven of James Kirkup By Jose Manuel.

James Kirkup’s noted poems published between 1947 and 2011 are The Drowned Sailor, The Submerged Village, A Spring Journey, The Descent into the Cave, The Prodigal Son, No Men Are Foreign, The Caged Bird in Springtime, White Shadows, Black Shadows, The Body Servant, The Sand Artist, The Haunted Lift, The Lonely Scarecrow, The House at Night, Strange Attractors, A Certain State of Mind, Broad Daylight, The Patient Obituarist, How to Cook Women, An Extended Breath, Burning Giraffes, Measures of Time, Pikadon, He Dreamed He was a Butterfly, and Home Thoughts in chronological order. The finest among his plays were The Prince of Homburg and The Meteor, published between 1959 and 1973. In addition, he published a few remarkable autobiographical works like The Only Child, I, of All People and Me All Over between 1957 and 1993. His translations of French novels include The Dark Child, Memoirs of a Dutiful Daughter, A Room in the Woods, Painted Shadows, Vagabond Winter, The Compassion Protocol, The Man in the Red Hat and Blind Sight and Paradise in chronological order between 1955 and 1996. Physicists, published in 1963, was a translation of a German play. The strangest thing about his literary career was that he loved writing obituaries on famous persons exclusively for The Independent. They printed more than 300 obituaries written by him. It was even rumoured that most of these obituaries were written in advance!


Almost all epics of the world were war poems- The Mahabharata, The Iliad, The Song of Roland, Beowulf. War poems were written both by combating soldiers and non-combating civilians, against war or celebrating war, on almost all wars that have happened in this world, the most important ones being the American Civil War, Crimean War, Boer War, Spanish Civil War, World War I and II, and Vietnam War. Many British, Irish, Canadian, Russian, French and German poets wrote poems on the First World War and many American, Romanian and Japanese poets joined their ranks during the Second World War. War poems needn’t always feel war-specific to later generations. Some poems will appear to be applicable to all wars. And some may find relevance in all ages. Prior to World War poems, one outstanding poem about the futility of war was Thomas Hardy’s The Valenceens, in which changing the one single word ‘Valenceen’ to ‘Vietnam’ would make this eighteenth century poem fit and current for the twentieth century.

Walt Whitman who wrote ‘Beat! Beat! Drums!’ was the foremost American Civil War poet. Tennyson’s ‘The Charge of the Light Brigade’ was written immediately after reading about the Crimean War in The Times News Paper, and the poem was circulated among Crimean War soldiers to boost their performance. Forty years later, Rudyard Kipling wrote a parody of this poem under the title ‘The Last of the Light Brigade’, to bring to world’s attention the plight of the old Crimean War veterans. Swinburne and Thomas Hardy were Boer War poets. Rupert Brooke and Siegfried Sassoon followed their very path in war poetry. The Spanish Civil War produced prominent poets like Clive Branson, Tom Wintringham and Roy Campbell. No one will forget García Lorca who was executed by the Spanish dictator General Franco and the Chilean poet Pablo Neruda who created the immortal epic The Third Residence On Earth in connection with the Spanish Civil War.

British poets like Isaac Rosenberg, Charles Sorley, Edward Thomas and Wilfred Owen died in the battlefield during World War I but others like Siegfried Sassoon, Robert Graves and Ivor Gurney escaped with wounds and continued writing poetry. Julian Grenfell, Wilfrid Gibson, Robert Nichols and Herbert Read were other noted war poets of this time. No one will forget the Irish poets like W. B. Yeats, Francis Ledwidge and John O'Donnell who wrote poetry for the same cause during the same period. And also there were the German poets like Walter Flex, Stefan George and Heinrich Mann, French poets like Yvan Goll, Louis Pergaud and Adrien Bertrand, Russian poets like Ilya Ehrenburg, Alexander Blok and Nikolay Gumilyov, and Canadian poets like John McCrae and Robert W. Service who presented the world with excellent war poems. Of the thousands of war poems about the First World War written during the past hundred years, The Soldier by Rupert Brooke, My Boy Jack by Rudyard Kipling, In Flanders Fields by John McRae, Dreamers by Siegfried Sassoon, Marching Men by Marjorie Pickthall, To Germany by Charles Hamilton Sorley and Dulce et Decorum Est and The Send-Off by Wilfred Owen are outstanding.

The World War II also produced an equal number of eminent poets. Keith Douglas, Hamish Henderson, Sidney Keyes and Alun Lewis were British contributions. Karl Shapiro and Randall Jarrell were American who published their noted book while in active war duty. Karl Shapiro was even awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry in 1945 while in service. Russian poetess Anna Akhmatova was an active witness to the 900-day Siege of St. Petersburg and the Romanian Jewish poet Paul Celan brought to print the most graphic descriptions of the horror and death in German Concentration Camps, himself a captive. Ryuichi Tamura, the most prominent Japanese war poet in active naval duty was the brain behind the Waste Land Poets, who closely followed the paths of W.H. Auden and T. S. Eliot, while Sadako Kurihara, one of the most noted anti-war poets in Japan who was living in Hiroshima on the day when the atom bomb was dropped, became a staunch criticizer of both Japan and America.

14. Article Title 4 Image & Graphics By Adobe SP. 

(Prepared from an English Poetry Class by P S Remesh Chandran)

First Published: 23 March 2011
Last Edited: 29 November 2018

Pictures Courtesy: Wikimedia Commons

Picture Credits:

01. Article Title 1 Image & Graphics By Adobe SP
02. US bombers moving to Japan over Mount Fuji By US Federal Archives
03. But for Imperialism! Matsumoto Castle By 663 Highland
04. Pre-war serenity in Japan By Σ64
05. Hiroshima City before the bombing By Leonardo G
06. Hiroshima City after the bombing By Leonardo G
07. Article Title 2 Image & Graphics By Adobe SP
08. A melted down clock from Ground Zero By James Sydney Australia
09. Japanese surrender before the United States By U S National Archives
10. Article Title 3 Image & Graphics By Adobe SP
11. Children's Peace Monument in Hiroshima By Taisyo
12. Tranquility restored. A Garden near Hiroshima Castle By Fg2

13. Andorra, The last haven of Kirkup By Jose Manuel
14. Article Title 4 Image & Graphics By Adobe SP
15. Author Profile Of P S Remesh Chandran By Sahyadri Archives


Anti World War Poems, Atomic Bombings, Free Student Notes, English Japanese Poets, James Kirkup, Literary Essays Articles Reviews, No More Hiroshimas, Poem Reviews Notes Appreciations, P S Remesh Chandran, Sahyadri Books Trivandrum, World War II,
31st Mar 2011 (#)

Great tribute to James Kirkup, the compassionate poet.
Also let us hope for no more Fukushimas.

About the Author P. S. Remesh Chandran: 

15. Author Profile Of P S Remesh Chandran By Sahyadri Archives.

Editor of Sahyadri Books & Bloom Books, Trivandrum. Author of several books in English and in Malayalam. And also author of Swan: The Intelligent Picture Book. Born and brought up in the beautiful village of Nanniyode in the Sahya Mountain Valley in Trivandrum, in Kerala. Father British Council trained English teacher and Mother University educated. Matriculation with distinction and Pre Degree Studies in Science with National Merit Scholarship. Discontinued Diploma studies in Electronics and entered politics. Unmarried and single. 

Author of several books in English and in Malayalam, mostly poetical collections, fiction, non fiction and political treatises, including Ulsava Lahari, Darsana Deepthi, Kaalam Jaalakavaathilil, Ilakozhiyum Kaadukalil Puzhayozhukunnu, Thirike Vilikkuka, Oru Thulli Velicham, Aaspathri Jalakam, Vaidooryam, Manal, Jalaja Padma Raaji, Maavoyeppoleyaakaan Entheluppam!, The Last Bird From The Golden Age Of Ghazals, Doctors Politicians Bureaucrats People And Private Practice, E-Health Implications And Medical Data Theft, Did A Data Mining Giant Take Over India?, Will Dog Lovers Kill The World?, Is There Patience And Room For One More Reactor?, and Swan, The Intelligent Picture Book. 

Face Book:
Google Plus:
You Tube:
Post: P. S. Remesh Chandran, Editor, Sahyadri Books, Trivandrum, Padmalayam, Nanniyode, Pacha Post, Trivandrum- 695562, Kerala State, South India.

Identifier: SBT-AE-011. No More Hiroshimas. James Kirkup Poem. Appreciation. P. S. Remesh Chandran, Sahyadri Books & Bloom Books, Trivandrum.

Published by Sahyadri Books & Bloom Books, Trivandrum.
Editor: P S Remesh Chandran. 

No comments:

Post a Comment