- Paperback: 82 pages
- Publisher: Finlay Publisher (17 Oct. 2015)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0955370825
- ISBN-13: 978-0955370823
- Product Dimensions: 19.9 x 1.4 x 13.1 cm
- Average Customer Review: 3 customer reviews
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 115,266 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
George Orwell the Complete Poetry Paperback – 17 Oct 2015
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Therefore I knew not to expect too much of this slim volume with regard to the actual quality or quantity of poetry. This book is for fans of Orwell who, as a friend of mine said recently, 'Once you’ve read and re-read everything else all you’re left with are the scraps...' This is essentially a few 'scraps' from a great writer who wrote far superior work in other forms but it's important because Orwell was passionate about poetry.
Nonetheless, I have given the book four stars because Dione Venables has done a reasonable job of putting together what there is of Orwell’s poetry and of placing the poems in their biographical context. As DJ Enright, one of Orwell’s biographers, pointed out, Venables has, by placing the poems chronologically, demarcated six groups of poems: patriotic juvenilia, Etonian squibs, the love poems to Jacintha Buddicom, poems from Orwell’s time in Burma, his Thirties ‘miserabalism’ and vers d’occasion.
Mixed in with published poems, from John Middleton Murry’s ‘The Adelphi’ literary journal and the ‘Tribune’, are all the snippets of poetry from Orwell’s novels, two songs from an early play ‘The Man and The Maid’, a limerick and even a handful of partial ‘fractured verse’.
Several commentators have reported that the Orwell estate held back allowing such a collection being made for fear it would damage the reputation of Orwell. Certainly the quality is not good (as mentioned in the book ‘Orwell, Two Guinea Pigs, a Cat and a Goat and other essays’) but Orwell valued poetry and biographically the speaking the poems (especially those not published in his life time) are fascinating. This collection, alongside Venables comments, acts as a biography in miniature and is worth reading for that reason alone.
My biggest grumble is that in my little samizdat booklet I included two poems that for some reason are not included by Venables. ‘M’Tutors’ which is from his Eton days and rags one of his tutors and also a rather striking poem called ‘The Plumber’s Daughter’ which is about an childish sexual encounter with a neighbours child who was not of the right sort or as the boy in the poem says ‘My mother says you’re common’. This is an interesting and biographically illuminating little poem and I’m curious as to why it’s not been included. Overall however this volume serves its purpose and I’m very happy its been published... even if I did have to wait thirty years!
He isn’t the best poet I’ve ever read by a long way, but some of his work has a deep resonance for me, because I have read, now, almost everything he’s ever written. I admire his political writing especially, but his poetry? Well, I can’t say that much of it seems to go very deep. The love poetry is sometimes touching, at other times he falls readily back into doggerel if it suits his theme. But some of the finer poems still work.
In the end though, it is his other writing that sticks in the mind. Down and Out In London and Paris and his brilliant work for radio, as well as Homage to Catalonia, Animal Farm, and The Road to Wigan Pier.
The best poem of his is quite short:
The lights must never go out
The music must always play,
Lest we should see where we are
Lost in a haunted wood
Children afraid of the dark
Who have never been happy or good.
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