Es­tate re­luc­tantly okays Or­well po­etry

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - LIFE - JOEL GUNTER

LON­DON: Fa­mous for writ­ing some of the best-known nov­els and es­says of the 20th cen­tury, Ge­orge Or­well is re­mem­bered for his prose rather than his verse – and per­haps for good rea­son.

A col­lec­tion of the 1984 author’s po­ems has been cleared for sale to the pub­lic, de­spite fears among those who look af­ter his es­tate that the po­etry’s du­bi­ous qual­ity would dam­age his rep­u­ta­tion.

The book had orig­i­nally been re­stricted to mem­bers of the Or­well So­ci­ety, but af­ter “quite a strug­gle” by its mem­bers and pres­sure from Ama­zon and Water­stones, the slim vol­ume will now be re­leased more widely.

Dione Ven­ables, the book’s editor and a founder of the Or­well So­ci­ety, led the fight af­ter comb­ing through the author’s col­lected works over the course of a year to bring the 42 po­ems to­gether.

Speak­ing to The In­de­pen­dent, Ven­ables ad­mit­ted the po­ems were “some­what var­ied” in qual­ity but said the col­lec­tion over­all “showed great charm”.

“He is a good poet but not an ex­cel­lent poet, and his po­etry is not up to the con­sis­tent bril­liance of his po­lit­i­cal writ­ing and his jour­nal­ism,” she said. I can’t think of any poem that is down­right bad, but there are quite a lot that are av­er­age.”

The po­ems “showed a dif­fer­ent and more vul­ner­a­ble” Or­well, she said. “You see the funny side of him, you see him in love, you see him ab­so­lutely rag­ing... you see so many sides of him.”

The col­lec­tion spans around 35 years and in­cludes po­ems writ­ten dur­ing Or­well’s school years, and later in Burma where he spent five years be­tween 1922 and 1927.

The Or­well So­ci­ety has planned an ini­tial print run of 500. All the roy­al­ties will go to fund­ing bur­saries and schol­ar­ships for young peo­ple hop­ing to be­come teach­ers or jour­nal­ists, the so­ci­ety said.

Bill Hamil­ton, guardian of copy­rights for the Or­well es­tate, was re­luc­tant for it to be more widely dis­trib­uted, Ven­ables said.

But he was won over by the idea of a pref­ace to each poem, “telling the reader what Or­well’s mood was, how his health was, where he was in his life, etc, so by the time the reader gets to the poem he is on the writer’s wave­length”.

Hamil­ton told The Book­seller the vol­ume is in­tended to be a “bi­o­graph­i­cal por­trait” of Or­well rather than a tra­di­tional po­etry col­lec­tion. “If you tried to present this purely as po­etry, you’d get shot down,” he said. When I was young and had no sense, In far off Man­dalay I lost my heart to a Burmese girl As lovely as the day. Her skin was gold, her hair was jet, Her teeth were ivory; I said “For twenty sil­ver pieces, Maiden sleep with me.” She looked at me, so pure, so sad, The loveli­est thing alive, And in her lisp­ing vir­gin voice, Stood out for twenty five. – The In­de­pen­dent

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from South Africa

© PressReader. All rights reserved.