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Best Poems and The Book of Five Makings
RRP: GBP 9.95
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Price: GBP 8.96
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ISBN: 978 1 857542 00 4
Categories: 20th Century, War writings
Published: August 1995
198 x 129 x 10 mm
Publisher: Carcanet Press
Ivor Gurney's poetic career was unusual. It began in 1917 and 1919 with two small volumes of verse (Severn and Somme /War's Embers, published by Carcanet). Then in 1922 he entered the asylum from which only an occasional poem in a magazine emerged. He did not stop writing: Edmund Blunden and Leonard Clark produced selections (1954 and 1973); P.J. Kavanagh produced the Collected and Selected Poems in 1982. Gurney went from small editions to Collected in a single leap.
It is worth reconstructing the more conventional process, reinventing books Gurney himself wished to see published in his lifetime. He put such volumes together, as John Clare did a century earlier, without hope of publication. Gurney had various titles in mind: Rewards of Wonder, Eighty Poems, The Book of Five Makings and Best Poems. All work towards a statement of his poetic position and come from his viewpoint, not from that of a selector or editor.
Best Poems consists of fair copies Gurney made, with few alterations, of sixty four poems. The Book of Five Makings is more a working draft, with recastings of the same poems, revealing the process by which he brought his art to completion. This book contains fifty-two poems and eight revised versions. Of the 116 poems in this double volume, only twenty five are previously collected.
In his introduction R.K.R.Thornton, Professor of English at the University of Birmingham and editor of Gurney's poems and collected letters, sets the books in context. Annotations give readers a clear picture of the books as Gurney wanted them to be.
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