Vernon Scannell

b. 1922 d. 2007

The glittering dance of brilliants must be strung / On that dark thread of sadness which is time - 'Sunt Lacrimae Rerum', Vernon Scannell

The Searchers

Vernon Scannell


The Loving Game

Vernon Scannell


Walking Wounded

Vernon Scannell

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About Vernon Scannell

Vernon Scannell (1922 - 2007) published his poetry from the 1950s right up to the last year of his life, but seems to be less well-known than he deserves, despite being the recipient of the Heinemann Award for Literature and the Cholmondely Award. In addition to his poetry, he wrote poems for younger readers, novels, autobiography and criticism, and reviewed poetry for Ambit magazine and The Sunday Telegraph regularly, until ill-health prevented this towards the end of his life. He was an Honorary Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature and was awarded a Civil List Pension for Services to Literature.

His background is fascinating, including serving with the Army in the Middle East and the Normandy Landings. He is a Second World War war poet, the experience of which is clear in 'Walking Wounded' in its ability to look closely, without false pity or false glory, at victims of "last night's lead', and which lends credence to his poems of the Great War, in which his father fought. More uncommon for a poet is his career as a boxer, winning championship titles at both school and university, and working in a fairground boxing-booth; this also appears in his poetry, such as in 'The Loving Game', where love, he insists, hurts more. Love, requited and not, or lost, or familial, is another theme that runs through his work. The kinds are often bound together, as in 'Growing Pains', which binds the strength of the father's love for his son with the son's unrequited love for a girl at school, and shows that it cannot do anything to ease the pain save empathise. (Scannell quotes, approvingly, Housman saying "the business of poetry is to harmonise the sadness of the universe".)

Herbert Lomas describes Scannell's method as "life's little and big ironies in polished stanzas and complicated verse-forms", which is true of many of the poems in this recording. But Scannell also uses fine blank verse and invented forms, and, in his introduction to a villanelle, talks helpfully about the form in use. Other introductions discuss the inspirations, obscurities or insights to the poems. His reading voice matches the paradoxes of his poems, being gravelly and mellow at the same time, but always welcoming the listener into the experience of the poem.

Vernon Scannell died on November 17th, 2007, aged 85. His recording was made for The Poetry Archive on 21 May 2001 at his home in Yorkshire and was produced by Richard Carrington.

Vernon Scannell's Favourite Poetry Sayings:

"It [i.e. the poem] begins in delight, it inclines to the impulse, it assumes direction with the first line laid down, it runs a course of lucky events and ends in a clarification of life - not necessarily a great clarification, such as sects and cults are founded on, but in a momentary stay of confusion." - Robert Frost

"The business of poetry is to harmonise the sadness of the universe" - A E Housman

Selected bibliography

Behind the Lines, Shoestring Press


Last Post, Shoestring Press 2007


Feminine Endings (novel), Enitharmon Press 2000

Ring of Truth (novel), Robson Books 1983

The Dividing Night (novel), Putnam 1962

The Face of the Enemy (novel), Putnam 1960

The Wound & The Scar (novel), Nevill 1954

The Fight (novel), Nevill 1953

Drums of Morning (prose), Robson Books 1992



1974 Cholmondeley Award

Prize website

1960 W H Heinemann Award

Prize website

1980 Civil List Pension for Services to Literature

Prize website

19xx Hon. Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature

Prize website


Vernon Scannell

Vernon Scannell Reading from his Poems

1They Did Not Expect This

2The Lynching

3The Great War

4Walking Wounded

5A Case of Murder

6When we were Married

7A Song to Celebrate

8Growing Pain

9Spot-Check at Fifty

10The Loving Game

11Wicket Maiden

12The Bombing of the Cafe de Paris, 1941

13On Leave: May 1916

14Candle Reflections


16Drinking Up Time


18Casualty - Mental Ward

19Frying Tonight

20The Searchers

21Sunt Lacrimae Rerum

A tour of the Archive with David Almond

I love this archive. It's an important reminder that all literature has its roots in the human voice. Black print on...

Featured Guided Tours

Books by Vernon Scannell