Chichester’s Dione Venables has brought together all George Orwell’s poetry for the first time in one volume.
George Orwell the Complete Poetry has been published by Finlay and is available from Scarthin Books (£8.99 plus £1.26 postage) from their shop on 01629 823272 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
“I belong to the Orwell Society, and I have always enjoyed the little bits of Orwell poetry that you see dotted around his writings and his essays,” Dione explains.
“I decided one day I would collect them so you could see them all under one cover.
“They had never been collected together in the one volume before. That’s why this is such an important little book. It goes together with the complete works.”
Dione’s point is that the poetry has been unjustly overlooked: “Some of it is absolutely wonderful. Some of it is pretty average, and some of his schoolboy efforts are dreadful, but the whole point of writing poetry is that it expresses emotion. It’s something different altogether to other forms of writing. When you are writing a poem, you are feeling deeply about something.”
And that’s why, Dione believes, through the poetry you glimpse a different side to Orwell.
“The poetry brings out a nicer person, a more human person. It shows his softer side. You think of Orwell as a writer who writes in a very direct, no-nonsense style. His writing is very positive. Poetry is quite different. You cannot be that positive in poetry. You see something different about Orwell.”
The academics might have neglected his poetic works: “But from a child, he absolutely loved poetry. All through his works you can see him quoting other people’s poems.
“He had such an affinity and respect for people like T S Eliot and Kipling. You ask the academics why they don’t take his poetry more seriously, and they will say they don’t want to risk damaging his reputation, which is nonsense.
“They say there are only 26 poems anyway, but I have looked through the 20 volumes of complete works, which took me nearly a year, and I have found 42. There are a number of little poems that have escaped people’s notice.”
And they have their value.
Above all, Dione recommends Orwell’s poetry for its honesty.
“With poetry, it is somehow more pure because you have stepped away from everything except your own emotion, and I think that’s why the poems are so revealing.”
For the book, Dione has adopted a particular approach: “I didn’t want the academics to be saying ‘This poem is better than that poem’ or whatever so what I have done is I have written an introduction to every single poem right from the beginning to explain what might have been the state of his health, what he was doing, where he was living at the time. As a result of that, you look at the poem with a proper context.
“You are ready for it. But also for people that might not know so much about him, if you read the introductions you have got in effect a potted biography of Orwell in the book. In providing this kind of background detail, it is hoped a little more light will be cast upon the mood in which each poem was written, underlying the depth of emotions littering Orwell’s brief but bountiful life.”
The book is also available from Waterstones in Chichester.
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