Guest post from Patrick Howse
Patrick Howse began writing the poems in his collection, Shadow Cast By Mountains, while covering the Iraq War for the BBC.
War plays a central part in the book, but he is reluctant to describe himself as a “war poet”, and the poems are not restricted to descriptions of the conflict in Iraq.
“I regard the book as a single, extended narrative which tells the story of the world I was born into, my war experiences, how they changed me, and the world that emerged from the wreckage,” he says.
“The poems in the collection are almost all coloured by Iraq and other conflicts, and in that respect Edward Thomas has been a huge influence on me.”
Thomas was killed fighting in the First World War, but wrote only one poem that described events in the conflict.
“I would say that most of my poems are not ‘about’ the Iraq War,” Patrick says. “I’m not trying to be a war poet like Wilfred Owen, much as I admire him. I’m much more interested in the impacts of war on me and on the world around me than in just writing descriptions of the action.”
He also says the book can be read as a love story.
“It charts how I came to terms with my experiences, and how – when I was at my lowest point – I found a soulmate who helped me save myself.”
The collection is illustrated with Patrick’s own field sketches as well as 17 original paintings by his partner, the German artist Inge Schlaile, who paints under the work-name Schlinge.
John Simpson, the BBC’s World Affairs Editor, has written a foreword for the book.
“This kind of work in places like Baghdad takes its toll,” he says. “Patrick has found an elegant way of coping with the strain: he has turned it into poetry”.
Shadow Cast By Mountains is published by Hayloft, and can be ordered here
About the author
Patrick Howse worked for the BBC for 25 years and began his career in Manchester. He then moved to London before covering conflicts in Northern Ireland and the Middle East. Between 2004 and 2009 he was bureau chief for the BBC in Baghdad. He now works as a writer, and trains conflict journalists from major international news organisations in Kent. You can see samples of his poetry here.
About the publisher
Hayloft is a small independent company and publishes books on a range of subjects, including history, mountaineering, poetry, humour, rural life, novels and memoirs. The company has won seven awards at the UK’s Lakeland Book of the Year competition. You can view their website here.
Hayloft logo used with permission.