County Series No. XIV
Contemporary Poetry of Oxfordshire, Berkshire & Buckinghamshire. No XIV.
Chosen and edited by S. Fowler Wright
Preface by S. Fowler Wright, (Editor of Poetry and The Play)
Fowler Wright, London
Thanks are due to Messrs John Lane, Ltd., for their kindness in authorizing the re-printing in this Anthology of Mrs. Margaret L. Wood's poem 'Good Friday Night', taken from her book 'The Return and Other Poems'.
THIS volume is one of a series of County Anthologies of Contemporary Poetry, issued in connection with the work of the Empire Poetry League, but the contributions included are not in any way confined to members of that organization, though it may naturally be the case that the majority of the authors concerned are among its supporters.
They are not all equally expert or experienced in craftsmanship. One - and not the least worthy - of the contributors to the first volume of the series, Warwickshire Poetry, is a girl of fourteen. Many others are of established reputation in contemporary literature. All are united in a common artistic purpose, and in the pursuit of ideality in an age which is tragic in some aspects of its materialism.
So compiled, this series is not intended to be comprehensive, though it is representative, and especially of the younger writers, from among whom must come the makers of English poetry for the next half-century.
But this claim of "representative" will almost certainly be challenged by the "modernist" fraternity, and their supporters.
The very impartiality with which I have edited these, and earlier, anthologies has caused me to be accused of hostility to vers libre, and more broadly to experimental as opposed to traditional forms of poetic expression. But the fact is, as anyone may discover who will make sufficient enquiry, that the bulk of such work is negligible, outside the very narrow circle of the clique which cultivates it in a form which it would be outside the purpose of this introduction to consider in detail.
Where it exists, and wherever its content is anything more than despicable, I have never failed to recognize it, as in the highly experimental work of Mr. Olaf Stapledon, in Poets of Merseyside, or the very "modern" art of Mrs. Dawson Scott, which found its first recognition in the pages of Poetry, and afterwards in the first series of Voices on the Wind, - to the preface of which volume I recommend any who are sufficiently interested, where these aspects of modern poetry are discussed more fully.
So compiled, and with an impartial purpose of showing what the poetry of today actually is, rather than that which any of us would wish it to be, this series can hardly fail to be of some permanent interest and importance.
It may be said that the poems vary greatly in quality. That is true. I have endeavoured to judge broadly and tolerantly, choosing different poems for different and sometimes opposite excellencies. Only, and always, requiring that they shall be sincere in expression, and in the worship, however humble, of that beauty which all art is born to serve.
Those of us who are neither deaf to the music of words, nor ignorant of the technique of poetic construction, may yet realize that as "the life is more than meat, and the body than raiment," so poetry is degraded from its highest function if it be first regarded as an esoteric art, producing curiously-patterned words as subjects for the admiration of the scholar, or the dissecting knife of the critic, rather than a vitalising force, which should be welcomed in any garb, however lowly.
It has been suggested that each volume of this series should contain some biographical or other data of the authors concerned, but that would be outside the purpose of the work in which we are interested, which is to extend the love and cultivation of English poetry, rather than the knowledge of those who write it. Besides, the revelation of individuality is contained more certainly in the work of any artist than in the records of his ancestry or occupation. Soldiers and mechanics, peers and butchers, bankers and labourers, men and women of wealth and poverty, of toil and leisure, literate and illiterate, united in the love and practice of poetry, have contributed to make these pages representative of the interests and aspirations of their time and race.
Poetry is the one art in which the British race is supreme, and by which it will be remembered when its material power may be no more than a legend of history. It is so widely read, and so readily appreciated, because we are a nation of poets. For among poets must be the only audience that poetry can ever win.
Gathered from such diverse sources, there are yet certain broad deviations observable in the poetry of different counties, which are brought into unusual relief by this method of publication. They are rather variations in subject and outlook, than in any more technical qualities. Where they occur, they throw occasional unexpected lights upon the influences of environment, and the racial characteristics of the localities in which they originate. But it may be largely accidental that some counties appear to be much richer than others in their poetic output. Experience has shown that the response in universal, wherever an intelligent effort be made to organize the lovers of poetry, even in areas which have appeared the most hopeless and apathetic at the first enquiry.
In conclusion, a word of thanks is due to the many lovers of literature, editors, librarians, and members of the E.P.L., in all parts of the country through whose generous enthusiasm and unselfish help the production of these books has been made possible. They are too numerous for individual mention, and it would be invidious to make a selection among the names of those who have shared in a common enterprise.
S. FOWLER WRIGHT (Editor of Poetry and the Play).
ELIZABETH F. ALDEN
Lines Written On An Autumn Night In The High Tatra
Autumn In Oxfordshire
The Noiseless Tenour Of Their Way
LOIS K. FORD
The Time Has Come
The Wind Blows Strong
By Angel's Hand
Autumn In A Chesham Copse
To Sheila Kaye-Smith
On Chinnor Hill
MARGARET L. WOODS
Good Friday Night
Tottenham Court Road
Lines Written On A Norwegian Hillside
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