Poems Written Abroad: The Lilly Library Manuscript

Poems Written Abroad: The Lilly Library Manuscript


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Poems Written Abroad is the first publication of the earliest collection of poetry by the famous poet, novelist, literary critic, translator, and radical, Sir Stephen Spender (1909-1995). Spender wrote and compiled this manuscript in 1927, when he was living in Nantes and Lausanne. In tone and diction, Spender's poems range from creatively traditional to unexpectedly innovative. They reflect his reading in Shakespeare and French poetry, as well as his absorption in music and modern art. They also document his struggles with his sexual identity and his emerging desire to devote his life, at whatever cost, to the writing of poetry.

This beautiful facsimile edition, authorized by the Spender estate, faithfully reproduces the features of the original manuscript now held by the Lilly Library, including the frontispiece, an ink drawing by Spender himself, and little-known photographs of the poet. The editor's extensive introduction and detailed explanatory notes situate Spender's juvenilia in the context of his life and work and the history of modern poetry. The volume will appeal to readers with interests in modern poetry, gender studies, and fine books.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780253041678
Publisher: Indiana University Press
Publication date: 07/01/2019
Series: Special Publications of the Lilly Library
Pages: 160
Product dimensions: 6.10(w) x 9.10(h) x 0.70(d)
Age Range: 18 Years

About the Author

Christoph Irmscher is Provost Professor of English and Director of the Wells Scholars Program at Indiana University. His many books include Louis Agassiz: Creator of American Science and Max Eastman: A Life.

Table of Contents


A Note on the Text

He arrives at the town

Sonnet on Absence

He finds the town

The Chateau Garden

He does not like the youth


There are roses

She Holds a Rose

He is astounded by the oppressiveness

Fragment for a Possible Romance

Two sonnets of indignation

Two Sonnets

The Confession of the Monk

To a Poet

The boy who was called "the Nightingale"

The Original Bluebeard

Written after the Fête de Dieu

A Sonnet to be Beautifully Printed

After Ronsard


Ballad of Money

Clair de Lune

To W.E.P.

Consolation of Dust

Epitaph on a Poet

Abbreviations and Endnotes

Explanatory Notes



What People are Saying About This

Jim McCue

Crackling with sensuality and ... poetic ambition.

Massimo Bacigalupo

This beautiful book allows us to witness the birth of a poet. Poems Written Abroad offers a fascinating record of travels and emotions in verse, touching for its youthfulness and impressive for its variety and intensity. Traveling in France and Switzerland, through the undiscovered terrains of poetry present and past, guided by a young master learning his trade—what could be more delightful?

Nicholas Jenkins

The interest of this beautifully presented volume from the Lilly Library, expertly edited by Christoph Irmscher, lies both in its author and in its moment. Stephen Spender is one of the central lyric poets of the first half of the 20th century in Britain. Ardent, clumsy, excruciatingly open, Spender was for a while a major conduit through which European styles of writing flowed into British poetry. This carefully organized (and decorated) book of poems, composed by an 18-year-old Spender in France and Switzerland during the summer of 1927, shows a young, painfully self-conscious writer [embracing] a generous internationalism that sought to resist the gravitational pull of the national ties Eliot had accepted.

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