Carrying my gasmask to school every day
buying saving stamps
remembering my National Registration Number
(see I can still remember it)
avoiding Careless Talk Digging for Victory
looking for German spies everywhere
Oh yes, I did my bit for my country that long dark winter,
me and Winston and one or two others,
wearing my tin hat whenever possible
singing “Hang out the Washing on the Siegfried Line”
aircraft-recognition charts pinned to my bedroom wall
the smell of a paint on toy soldiers
doing paintings of Spitfires and Hurricanes, Lancasters
always with a Heinkel or a Messerscnitts plunging
helplessly into the sea background
pink light in the sky from Liverpool burning 50 miles away
shaking the elder berry tree
bright barrage-balloons flying over the docks
morning curve of the bay seen from the park on the hill
after coming out of the air-raid shelter
listening for the “All Clear” siren
listening to Vera Lynn Dorothy Lamour Allen Jones
and The Andrew Sisters
clutching my father’s hand tripping over the unfamiliar kerb
I walk over over every day
in the black-out.
“Autobiography” is a poem written by the contemporary poet Adrian Henri in 1971. In this poem the poet is the speaker and he’s remembering his childhood and his youth. He makes a list of British and German aeroplanes ( lines 14-15 “Spitfires and Hurricanes, Lancasters and Halifaxes”) and also of famous singers (lines 24-25 “Vera Lynn Dorothy Lamour Allen Jones and The Andrew Sisters). This poem is very important for us because it’s a witness to real life during the war.
The poem is continuous and it’s made up of 28 lines which have an irregular length. Lines are aligned except lines 14, 16, 19 and 25 which are intended. There isn’t a regular punctuation and there are no full stop and in each line there is a run-on-lines. Lines 1 and 7 begin with a capital letters. There is no rhyme scheme. There is a consonance (line 2 buying-saving), an alliteration (line 20 barrage-balloons) and a repetition (lines 23-24 listening for the all clear siren listening to Vera Lynn).
I really like this poem because it let us discover another aspect of the war, the every day life. In my opinion you can connect this poem to the Andrew Sisters’ song “Candy man, in fact, they went to the front to sing and support the soldiers or with Cristina Aguilera’s remake. This poem can also be connected with “Hang out the washing on the Siegfried Line” quoted in the text.