Remembering Ivor Gurney born 28 August 1890

I believe in the increasing of life: whatever
Leads to the seeing of small trifles,
Real, beautiful, is good and an act never
Is worthier than in freeing spirit that stifles
Under ingratitude’s weight, nor is anything done
Wiselier than the moving or breaking to sight
Of a thing hidden under by custom – revealed,
Fulfilled, used (sound-fashioned) any way out to delight:
Trefoil – hedge sparrow – the stars on the edge at night.

I like the simple things (the ‘small trifles’) noticed about the natural world in this, my favourite of his poems, published as ‘The Escape‘ in Ivor Gurney’s collected poems.

Source: Chris Goddard / Wikipedia.

Gurney’s gravestone at Twigworth church, Gloucestershire. Source: Chris Goddard / Wikipedia.

28th August 2015 is the 125th anniversary of Ivor Bertie Gurney’s birth in Gloucester in 1890.  He would grow up from a working class background  to become a talented composer, setter of songs to music and, how I discovered him, poet of the countryside and of ordinary soldier in the trenches of World War 1. Mental health problems before and after the war eventually led to him spending his later years in asylums from 1923 until his death in 1937.

It is over 25 years since I visited his archive in Gloucester City Library and  not many people had  heard of him at the time. A changing cast of friends  helped me through Leicester University Theatre deliver many occasional performances (c. 1989 to 1991) of  a ‘one man show’ of Gurney poem readings called “Voices” (a ‘one man show’ about ‘one man’ using three people as different aspects of Gurney and the different characters he met). Not many people had come across him but many people responded well to his life and works.

Voices poster Leicester University Theatre  (design: Mark Norris, image source Jonathan Lightfoot.)

Voices poster Leicester University Theatre
(design: Mark Norris, image source Jonathan Lightfoot.)

Fortuitously  Jonathan Lightfoot blog posted yesterday one of the original posters for “Voices” that I hand drew and lettered before printing (in those computer scarce days).

I have the scripts somewhere: the “Escape” poem was one of the final poems, as to me it’s almost a manifesto, a summoning up of beliefs.

25 years on from Voices, Gurney’s books have now been republished, music recorded and performed and there is a flourishing Ivor Gurney Society on both sides of the Atlantic dedicated to promoting his memory, life and works.

His archive is supported / maintained by the Ivor Gurney Trust

The photos of his memorial stones come from a very full Wikipedia entry:

Gurney's memorial, Gloucester cathedral . Image: Andrew Rabbot / Wikipedia

Gurney’s memorial, Gloucester cathedral . Image: Andrew Rabbot / Wikipedia

“Do not forget me quite / O Severn Meadows”

Happy Birthday Ivor Gurney, not forgotten!


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