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This review is taken from PN Review 89, Volume 19 Number 3, January - February 1993.

THE COMMON AIR Laura Riding, First Awakenings: The Early Poems, edited by Elizabeth Friedmann, Alan J. Clark and Robert Nye (Carcanet) £14.95

Laura Riding's poetic career ended with her renunciation of poetry after the publication of her Collected Poems in 1938, a dramatic reversal by one of poetry's most passionate advocates in the modernist years. A different kind of dramatic story lies behind the welcome publication of these early poems. When Laura Riding Gottschalk, as she was then, arrived in England in early 1926, not quite 25 years old, already a published and prize-winning poet, she brought with her a selection of poems to form her first book, The Close Chaplet. She had left in America other poems in typescript, supposedly in the safe-keeping of a friend, but which were to disappear, not to be rediscovered until 1979. This remarkable find makes up about three-quarters of this collection, the rest being poems that appeared in magazines between 1922 and 1926, but have not been published since.

In a preface, written, I presume, not long before she died last year, Laura (Riding) Jackson, as she had become, gives an indication of how she would like this collection read, or perhaps more accurately, how she would not like it read. She wants no 'infusion of it' into the 'self-determining canon' of her Collected Poems, which she sees as final record of the furthest she could go with the possibilities of poetry. In particular she is anxious that these poems should not be used to further speculative biographical readings of the Collected Poems. For her, poetry was never just 'personal adventure', nor ...


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