Edited by Elizabeth Friedmann, Alan J. Clark and Robert Nye
Published Carcanet Press Limied 1992
This book consists of early poems by Laura Riding, all of them dating from the years 1920-1926, none of them published in her Collected Poems of 1938 nor in any of the nine separate volumes on which that collection draws. Most of the poems come from a cache of work mainly in typescript form which, its author later noted, "represents what I rejected for inclusion in my first book of poems - the manuscript of which, prepared for delivery to the English publisher, I took with me on my departure [for England] in December 1925." These poems, left in the safekeeping of a friend in America , were rediscovered only in 1979; they are now in the Berg Collection of the New York Public Library. To them the editors of the present volume have added a separate sequence of poems published in magazines - under the poet's first authorial name, Laura Riding Gottschalk - in the period 1922-26, but similarly uncollected in any of her books. Poems from the work now in the Berg Collection which had seen magazine appearance have been relocated in this final section because here it has been possible to establish a chronology at least of publication. With the Berg poems there is no such chronology, and the poems are printed in the four groups in which they were found. The first three of these sequences had their poems arranged by title in roughly alphabetical order; we have made that order word-byword exact for all four.
In preparing this book we have sought to carry out Laura (Riding) Jackson 's wishes, as expressed in the Preface. Her few unusual spellings have been retained where evidently intentional, as have the few instances of unorthodox punctuation; obvious errors have been silently corrected.* No poem is included here which was included in any of the books of poems she published in her lifetime; nor have we included any poem which was revised by her for such inclusion. A list of all omitted poems will be found in Appendix B.
The book therefore contains no line of verse which has previously appeared in any other book by Laura Riding, all of it falling outside the canon of the Collected Poems. In terms of time, it covers the period from her beginnings as a poet while a student at Cornell to the publication of her first volume The Close Chaplet in the autumn of 1926. The title First Awakenings: The Early Poems of Laura Riding was given to the collection by the author herself in the last year of her life.
* The poem of Sequence IV, 'Can Lips Be Laid Aside?', originally appeared to the editors to be complete; we took the comma concluding our working typescript to be accidental, and altered it to a full-stop. At a late stage in preparation of the present volume, re-examination of this poem's original typescript showed evidence of intended continuation. We have decided to reinstate the final comma.
If a Woman Should Be Messiah by Laura Riding