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 was Professor in the School of English at the University of St Andrews. As well as over ten collections of poetry – including Elegies (1985), which won the Whitbread Book of the Year Award, and New Selected Poems 1964-2000 (2003) – he has written several radio and television plays and…

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