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Donkey’s Ears

Douglas Dunn
Date Published
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A wonderfully sustained narrative poem, full of the resonances and repercussions attendant on the end of an era, The Donkey’s Ears depicts life aboard a Russian flagship just before the battle of Tsushima, 1905. It purports to be written by E.S. Politovsky, a ship’s engineer addressing his wife in letters back home. Known as ‘The Trafalgar of the East’, Tsushima (which, translated from the Japanese, means ‘The Donkey’s Ears’ – a description of the twin peaks of the islands) was the biggest naval gun-battle in history. The action of the poem takes place before the battle. A vividly realized claustrophobia prevails. Life below and on deck is brilliantly detailed as is the sense of incipient doom; one man’s voice (domestic, particular, yearning for wife and home comforts) pitched against the inexorable onslaught of events.


Douglas Dunn was born in Inchinnan, Renfrewshire, in 1942 and lived there until he married at the age of twenty-two. After working as a librarian in Scotland and Akron, Ohio, he studied English at Hull University, graduating in 1969. He then worked for eighteen months in the university library after which, in 1971, he became a freelance writer. In 1991…

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