'beautifully lucid poems'

Written by Chris Searle for Race & Class, vol. 61, 4: pp. 107-108. on Thursday, April 2nd, 2020

Unknown Soldier is an unforgettable and beautifully told story in poetry and photographs about one of those who never let on, a black man from colonial Ceylon in a white regiment whom comrades called ‘Snowball’, a radio operator and signaller in the North African campaign, written by his daughter who, as a child, found him silent about his years of conflict in desert tents, trails and trenches.

He became ‘one of the returners who refused to tell’, but his daughter Seni found the most poignant cues about his desert sojourns in a bundle of sometimes faded, but more often clear and evocative, photographs taken by one of his platoon-mates. These moving and stark images, snapped in locations such as Cairo, Port Tawfiq, coastal environs near El Alamein, Jericho and Libya are the source of a daughter’s beautifully lucid poems, reflecting upon her father’s faraway life in North Africa and domestic years in Leeds, where he settled after being demobbed, married a Yorkshire woman, and where his daughter-poet was born and raised.