Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Forthcoming and Current Events

As far as we know, there are no events coming up in the near future but do come back to this again soon for any more developments.

Sunday, September 02, 2007

The Collected Poems of Mervyn Peake

It is with barely concealed delight that I can announce that for the very first time the collected poems of my late father will be published in 2008, the 40th anniversary of his death. Carcanet Press, the country's leading poetry publisher, will be bringing out a volume which will include over 80 unpublished works, and the collection will be copiously illustrated.

In all over 230 poems will appear thus making this one of the most significant Peake publications of recent years. The editor, Rob Maslen, who has done a quite magnificent job, has worked closely with Peter Winnington, editor of Peake Studies and undisputed doyen on the subject of Mervyn Peake, to produce what I'm sure will be a landmark in the history of love, war, contemplative and philosophical poetry.

The formal title of this edition is Mervyn Peake, Collected Poems, ed. R. W. Maslen and this is how the book is announced by Carcanet Press:

"This is the first comprehensive edition of the poetry of Mervyn Peake, author of the Gormenghast books and one of the most celebrated illustrators of the 20th century. All his poetry is collected in this volume, with the exception of the nonsense rhymes and one early narrative poem. In addition, every black-and-white illustration he
made for his verse is included here, along with many other pictures, some of which have never before been published. Of the more than 230 poems – all reproduced from authoritative sources – over eighty are printed for the first time.

"Published to mark the 40th anniversary of Peake’s death, this edition finally enables his stature as a writer of verse to be properly assessed. He emerges as a major poet of the mid-20th century, whose achievement was recognized in 1950 by the award of the Heinemann prize for his collection The Glassblowers. Like his hero William Blake, Peake possessed an acute sense of his responsibilities as a visual and verbal artist, and was passionately engaged with the events of his time: from unemployment in pre-war Britain to the horrors of the London Blitz and of the concentration camp at Bergen-Belsen, which he visited in 1945. He was a fine love-poet as well as a sensitive observer of the human form in action and at rest. His poetry helps to anchor the fantasy world of Gormenghast in the world of the turbulent 1930s and 40s, and will bring those decades to vivid new life in the imaginations of 21st-century readers."

The Ancient Mariner drawings and The Wordsworth Trust

A fitting and permanent home for the fine drawings produced for Coleridge's masterpiece, The Ancient Mariner, has now been found in the most appropriate of settings. The Wordsworth Trust at Dove Cottage will now not only provide students of the work with a place where they can be viewed, but will also provide access for the public.

Such was the shortage of paper in 1943 that the then editor of Chatto & Windus suggested that both he and the author 'begin collecting old envelopes, bun bags and tram tickets'. 'God only knows' added the editor 'how we'll produce a book'. But the book appeared and the original eight illustrations; one went missing, never to be rediscovered, became seven again when 'Night-mare Life-in Death' , 'the leprous lady' was on reflection 'just too terrifying'. In subsequent editions the syphilitic, skeletal, whore-like female was included.

C.S.Lewis on receiving a copy of the first edition wrote to Mervyn Peake from Oxford: 'The Mariner himself has just the triple character I have sometimes met in nightmares - that disquieting blend of the venerable, the pitiable, and the frightful. But at the same time - thanks I suppose mainly to the position of the arms - the representation is a graceful thing (his italics).

In the current Vintage Classics edition Marina Warner writes of the illustrations...'Mervyn Peake's use of deep blacks, welling shadows and horrible phantoms captures shudderingly the Gothic atmosphere of Coleridge's poem, while the leprous lady is described as 'a noseless death's-head vamp, with a blond mane, lipsticked mouth and kittenish cross skeleton hands'. 'Mervyn Peake patterns the page with dramatic economy' she continues while 'his Ancient Mariner looms out in the first illustration a gaunt and prophetic greybeard loon gesturing with his long skinny fingers and fixing us, in the place of the Wedding Guest, with his uncanny gig-lamp eyes, while in the final image we see only the back of the spellbound Mariner as he walks on'.

I pass, like night, from land to land;
I have strange power of speech.

The Short Stories of Mervyn Peake

I am very happy to announce that following the very successful reception of Mervyn Peake: The Man & His Art in October 2006, Peter Owen Publishers will be bringing out an edition of my father's short stories this November. Introduced by Joanne Harris, the volume will include Boy in Darkness together with numerous previously unseen drawings by the author and five other short stories which were last published by Penguin Classics in 2000.

Saturday, September 01, 2007

A talk in Burpham

I will be giving an illustrated talk on my father on Thursday 4th October at the Burpham Country House hotel in Burpham, near Arundel, West Sussex. With both my parents and paternal grandparents buried in the 11th century Saxon churchyard nearby,
the setting for the event is particularly appropriate. Two of the cottages where we lived at various times both during the war and after are also within a few hundred yards of the hotel.

For further details contact the hotel via their email address
or call 01903 882160