Alexander (Shura) Shihwarg was a lively, brilliantly entertaining and witty speaker until his death at 96 in 2018. He would describe himself as a Russian poet whose parents fled the Bolshevic revolution, ending up not in Paris, but in China. He was schooled in Tientsin Grammar and of course speaks bilingual Chinese, as well as Russian and English with no accent whatsoever. He then went to Hong Kong university, where he saw the Japanese bombs fall and decided to enroll in the British Army. He was a prisoner of the Japanese for three years, and came to England immediately after the war with the intention of going to Oxford University to study English Literature.
He successfully did that, followed by a career in London, where he lived in Chelsea and met and married the beautiful Joan Wyndham.
His stores of pre-war China in his school days are not-to-miss. His poems deal with all these subjects.
The poems celebratebeautiful women, cats, pithy and wryly funny meditations and combine the hilariously funny with the tragic experiences of war. As JILLY COOPER says on the Book cover:
“I adore Shura Shihwarg, who I have known for more than fifty years, and his poetry. His poems are lyrical, touching, by turn both heartbreaking and extremely funny and go straight to the heart. They are also – a rare thing in modern poetry – totally understandable. Readers are in for a real treat.”
Somewhere the Spring was struggling to be born.
I felt its birth pangs underneath the snow.
And on the frost-edged, snowdrop-haunted morn
the waking up was difficult and slow.
An ancient dinosaur, I stretch and rise,
burnish my scales and scrub away my sins
as underneath the blue forgiving skies
the hocus-crocus of the Spring begins.
MIRROR, MIRROR . .
I looked into the mirror
and it looked back at me.
“Your life is at an ebb” it said,
“and you’re wrinkled like the sea.”
“The Spring will not awaken you.
Autumn’s in every pore,
and Time has overtaken you
as the ocean laps the shore.”
“But” I replied, “with due respect,
you fail to make me sad.
No smart-arsed mirror can reflect
the glorious times I’ve had.
To Joan at 80
Now you are four score years, my love,
and God’s still smiling from above
let’s hope that after the champagne
this sweet scenario stays the same.
The beauty that invests your face,
your spirit, and your boundless grace;
all that I’ve cherished from the start,
stay firmly anchored in your heart.
So take a younger man’s advice –
Youth was the prize – age is the price.
But do not fear to turn the page.
There lurks a second youth in age,
and as the sand falls in the glass,
kick the Grim Reaper in the arse.