Vernon Scannell

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Vernon Scannell (23 January 1922 – 16 November 2007) was a British poet and author. He was at one time a professional boxer, and wrote novels about the sport.


  • Well, here I suppose is my life, or part of it, by which I would wish to be judged... poems which have been written from a sense of compulsion, a real need to explore and articulate experiences which have been important to me.
    • Introductory Note- New & Collected poems 1950 - 1980 Robson Books 1980
  • All I am is in my verse.
    • Scannell's quote to his wife Jo, relayed to James Andrew Taylor - Walking Wounded: The Life and poetry of Vernon Scannell O U P 2013 ISBN 9780199603183
  • I'm no novelist.Or anything else, I suppose, except, just possibly a poet, once in a while.
    • Scannell's diary entry - 28 December 1966 James Andrew Taylor - Walking Wounded: The Life and poetry of Vernon Scannell O U P 2013 ISBN 9780199603183

Tiger and the Rose, 1971[edit]

Tiger and the Rose Hamish & Hamilton , London 1971

  • You can find out far more about a writer from his poems or fiction ..because in his stories or poems, his preoccupations, obsessions, moral standards, the quality of his intelligence, his loves, hates, aspirations, belief and fears.. insist on expression.
  • The poet , absorbed in the solving of formal problems, the struggle with slippery eels of language, has no time for dissimulation and he tells us more about himself than he knows.
  • The great artist may be, outside the confines of his art, cruel, weak, arrogant and foolish, but within them he can transcend his own condition and become noble, passionate and truthful beyond the range of ordinary men.
  • I believe one of the functions of language used poetically is to explore experiences and hidden sources of behavior in a way that will not be tedious to the reader.
  • In the excitement and rigours of the game or battle with words and shapes, self-interest is mislaid and objective truth may often be revealed.
  • As a writer, I must keep writing, poems can never be forced, the muses will not be raped, so I feel this kind of prose (autobiography), however inadequate, share some of the exploratory features of the poetic use of language.
  • Past events are not dead but constantly making their claims on the present, modifying it even as they themselves are modified in the maw of subsequent events and in the memory which is part of the shaping of imagination.

Not Without Glory, 1976[edit]

Not without Glory Robson Books London 1976

  • The authentic British poetry of the second world war was not a poetry of protest, still less was it inspired by patriotic enthusiasm
    • Introductory Essay 'Setting the Scene'
  • The servicemen of the 1939 - 45 war could not be disillusioned because they held not illusions to start with, the most common mood found everywhere was one of dour resolution, skeptical, resigned.
    • Introductory Essay 'Setting the Scene'
  • The best poetry of the second World war written by both British & American servicemen need not fear comparison with the generally more well highly regarded work of the 1914-18 poets.
    • Introductory Essay 'Setting the Scene'
  • All true poets are, of course, primarily concerned with artifact, the making of a verbal construct, a durable work of art.
  • Some poets are more deeply involved than others in the raw experience which lies behind the poem and for them the act of composition is an act of self exploration with the definite goal of enlightenment rather than the ideally depersonalized construction of a beautiful and autonomous object.
  • Ther poetry of the second World War conveys the true feeling of those desolate and desperate days with an urgency and sense of truth that no other means of recording could emulate.
  • The best poetry of WW2 , the most truthful and penetrating, poetry which is rooted in the ground of physical experience, suspicious of the abstract and conforming to the discipline of provenly effective forms.
  • Neither Sassoon or Owen were notably exploratory or original in technique ,each developed a style which permitted them to give a full expression to their deepest thoughts & feelings about war.

A Proper Gentleman, 1977[edit]

A Proper Gentleman , Robson Books , London 1977

  • The poet's need to try to find his own voice , a recognizable individual voice that carries the signature of his voice in almost every line . . . the unique tone being the consequence of the poet's rigorous search for truth ( his truth(, his absolute fidelity to the nature of the experience he was exploring.
  • It is impossible for a poet to fashion the voice deliberately by contrivance and experiment; it could not be discovered or simulated through the cultivation of an eccentric diction or prosody, or by the employment of regional speech rhythms and patterns.
  • A word or a phrase or a line is not a poem. A poem is the exploration and shaping of an experience. A real poem demands intelligence, imagination, passion, understanding, experience and not least a knowledge of the craft.
  • Whether we are writing prose or verse we must never use language in a merely decorative way, every qualifying word, every adjective and adverb must be carefully inspected & weighed before it is used and ask before its use , is it really necessary.
  • The word experiment derives from 'experimentum' - that which has been experienced and what , for the writer , has been experienced is the work of his great predecessors
  • The genuinely innovatory , the truly 'experiential' poetry is always firmly rooted in the achievement of the past.
  • The desire of a poet for his writings to be in print is as natural as a painter needs to exhibit his work in public.
  • The impulse to create is pure, self sufficient, its own reward or punishment.
  • Of my childhood & youth the greater part of which had been spent in an atmosphere of cultural twilight.
  • The intellect had rejected the rational basis of belief, yet the imagination & sensibility yearn for simple faith.

Argument of Kings, 1987[edit]

Prefatory Note to Argument of Kings Robson Books London 1987

  • I would say that my aims of writing this book are less concerned with the facts of history than with the truth of art.
  • I hope this book will throw a little light on the nature of human coutage and its lack..when the last argument of kings viz cannon or war pursues its loud & murderous course.

Drums of Morning, 1992[edit]

Drums of Morning, Robson Books, London 1992

  • The practice of reading aloud did do something towards attuning my ear .The subtle cadences of Elizabethan blank verse taught me more than the substantial study of English prosody could do at that time.
  • I was the living proof of T. S Eliot's assertion that poetry can communicate before it is understood.the conscious,analytical part of my response was lulled into a kind of stupor by the rhythms and richness of the imagery of the poetry I was reading.
  • The proper act of reading of a poem was not an act of passive submission but one of collaboration with its author.

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