Biography and Criticism

The following is offered to help the general reader, student or scholar new to Douglas.

Please do use the contacts page to let us know of omissions and useful additions and the list will be updated.

If you haven’t read Keith Douglas before, perhaps the most exciting introductions to him are still any one of Ted Hughes’s tributes to him, the latest, his introduction to his ‘Poet to Poet’ Simplify Me When I’m Dead: Selected Poems of Keith Douglas for Faber. Another poet, Geoffrey Hill responded brilliantly to Hughes’s 1960s views in his Stand review of Hughes’s 1964 Faber edition of KD’s Selected Poems. For a third poet’s more recent understanding of Douglas himself and his standing as a poet, Anne Stephenson’s 2000 review of KD’s Letters gives a finely judged estimate.

To find information about KD or read about his life, the biography by Desmond Graham is still available. A later piece by an Officer with him in hospital at El Ballah in 1943, together with Graham’s account of making his biography appeared in PN Review No 47, in 1985 and supplement the biography. An exhibition of KD’s memorabilia and Mss was held in the Bodleian in 1974 and its catalogue is available on request from this website.

The most thorough guide to the current scholarly view of Douglas and the historical and literary contexts of his work is Tim Kendall’s The Oxford Handbook of British and Irish War Poetry 2007. Kendall also offers two chapters on KD in his Modern English War Poetry 2006.

Two small books have been written as introductions to KD. William Scammell’s Keith Douglas, 1988, and Morgan Merrington’s Keith Douglas: Genius Overlooked in Cecil Woolf’s ‘The War Poets’ series, 2016.

Douglas’s Manuscripts are mostly available in two archives:

The British Library holds his main poetry manuscripts and the original draft of his Alamein to Zem Zem, together with KD’s illustrations for his proposed publications in 1944, and letters, both to and from him (see online catalogues and, for the first batches of MSS Jenny Stratford’s detailed Modern Literary MSS.)

The Special Collections of The Brotherton Library, Leeds, hold virtually all the other important material: KD’s photographs, his surviving books (some with marginalia), magazines and journals containing his work, memorabilia and general papers, some Letters and Mss of his poems (see online catalogues; Desmond Graham’s ‘Keith Douglas’ Books’: The Book Collector, Summer 1981 offers a listing and an account of his surviving books).