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Laura (Riding) Jackson and Robert Graves (1926-1939)

Having admired (Riding) Jackson's "The Quids" published in The Fugitive (1924), Robert Graves began correspondence with her. He subsequently arranged with Virginia and Leonard Woolf's Hogarth Press to publish her first collection of poems, The Close Chapelet (1926). Afterwards she apparently was invited to become Graves' secretary or to collaborate with him on a book about modern poetry. Their thirteen-year relationship (1926-39) was beseiged with the intricacies of their personal, poetical, and professional interconnections.

A Survey of Modernist Poetry (1927)

... Method in poetry is therefore not anything that can be talked about in terms of physical form. The poem is not the paper, not the type, not the spoken syllables. It is as invisible and as inaudible as thought; and the only method that the real poet is interested in using is one that will present the poem without making it either visible or audible, without turning it into a substitute for a picture or for music. But when conservatism of method, through its abuse of slack-minded poets, has come to mean the supplanting of the poem by an exercise in poet-craft, then there is reasonable place for innovation, if the new method defeats the old method and brings up the important question: how should poetry be written? Once this question is asked, the new method has accomplished its end. Further than this it should not be allowed to go, for poems cannot be written from a formula. The principle value of a new method is that it can act as a strong deterrent against writing in a worn-out style. (p. 21)

. . . . .

It must be admitted that excessive interest in the mere technique of the poem can become morbid both in the poet and the reader, like the composing and solving of cross-word puzzles. Once the sense of a poem with a technical soul, so to speak, is unriddled and its patterms plainly seen, it is not fit for re-reading; as with the Sphinx in the fable, allowing its riddle to be guessed is equivalent to suicide. A poem of this kind is nevertheless able to stave off death by continually revealing, under examination, an unexpected reserve of new riddles; and as long as it is able to supply these it can continue to live as a poem. (p. 25)

from Laura Riding and Robert Graves, A Survey of Modernist Poetry, rpt. (St. Claires Shores, MI: Scholarly Press, 1972).

Joyce Piell Wexler

The longest poetic association Riding maintained was her thirteen-year relationship with Robert Graves. Today, her name is usually remembered in this connection. Her friendship with Graves began because they shared an idiosyncratic view of modernist poetry. Their first collaboration, A Survey of Modernist Poetry (1927), attempted to expose the inauthenticity of most current poetry and recognized only two truly new poems, one by e. e. cummings and the other by Laura Riding. The book was important in Riding's career because it was an early statement of her tenet that the meaning of each word was the basic structural element of poetry. Rhyme, meter, and metaphor were incidental to poetry; what ultimately mattered was that the presence of each word be justified by its definition. To illustrate these principles, A Survey demonstrated a method of close textual analysis that influenced the New Criticism. (p. xi)

from Joyce Piell Wexler Laura Riding's Pursuit of Truth (Athens, OH: Ohio UP, 1979).

David Perkins

...[A Survey of Modernist Poetry] This bright book contained a now famous sixteen-page analysis of Shakespeare's Sonnet 129, "Th' expense of spirit in a waste of shame...," showing how many different, interwoven meanings the text might activate. Excited by this, Empson went to work on other texts, illustrating the same point about poetic language, first for his director of studies, I.A. Richards, and then for the world in Seven Types of Ambiguity (1930). (p. 75)

from David Perkins, A History of Modern Poetry: Modernism and After (Cambridge, MA: Harvard UP, 1987).

 The Seizin Press

The Seizin Press, founded by Robert Graves and Laura (Riding) Jackson in 1927, was devoted to printing original literary materials, much like Virginia and Leonard Woolf's Hogarth Press. Using an Albion press set up at 35a, St. Peters Square, Hammersmith, London, they began with their first book, "Seizin One" (1928) by Laura Riding, Love as Death, Death as Death. "Seizin Two" (1929) was Gertrude Stein's An Acquaintance with Description and "Seizin Three" (1929) was Robert Graves' Poems. In 1930 they moved their press to Deya, Majorca and continued printing until the Spanish Civil War began when Graves and (Riding) Jackson fled Spain.

Brief List of Seizin Books

One-Love as Death, Death as Death, Laura Riding (1928).
Two-An Acquaintance with Description, Gertrude Stein (1929).
Three-Poems, Robert Graves (1929).
Four-No Trouble, Len Lye (1930).
Five-Though Gently, Laura Riding (1930).
Six-To Whom Else?, Robert Graves (1931).
Seven-Laura and Francisca, Laura Riding (1931).
Of Others, a critical pamphlet by The Seizin (1931).
Antigua, Penny Puce, Robert Graves (1936), Constable.
Progress of Stories, Laura Riding (1936), Constable.
The National Need, James Reeves (1936), Constable.
Trojan Ending, Laura Riding (1937), Constable.
Nine Poems, Jay Macpherson (1955), Palma.

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