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Monthly Carcanet Books

This article is taken from PN Review 78, Volume 17 Number 4, March - April 1991.

Letter to a Professor of English Robert Nye

You asked me to help you to come to terms with the work of Laura Riding by giving you a list of (say) six of her poems which I think especially good, as a spur to your starting a re-reading. I am sorry I have taken a while to respond. My father died suddenly at the end of October, and I was in England seeing to the funeral and trying to look after my mother. He was a gentle man, more or less as I have him in that poem of mine called 'Going to the Dogs', certainly never less. I miss him. This grief is one of the reasons why I was incapable of writing sooner in answer to your request. There are, though, other reasons.

For a start, of all the writers I can think of, Laura Riding's work is without doubt the least suitable to this sort of reduction. Her poems are one poem, and they ought to be read whole, either in the original Collected Poems published by Cassell in 1938, or in the new edition which came out from Carcanet Press in 1980. The latter will be easier for you to find, and has the advantage also of providing her own account of why she renounced the writing of poems not long after preparing the first volume for the press. Since at the same time it includes as an appendix that soaring-spirited preface 'To the Reader' which introduced the Cassell book - ...


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