The Dreamer and the Sheaves,
and other poems.London: Geoffrey Cumberlege, Oxford University Press, 1955 Stock Code: 136259
NotesFirst edition, first impression, inscribed by the author to the title page, "To Alan Guest, best wishes from I. R. Orton". Loosely inserted in this copy are two letters to the editor of Stand magazine and poet Jon Silkin, one in manuscript, dated 27 November 1954; the second typed and signed in manuscript. Alongside the letters Orton has sent Silkin six typed poems for his consideration, all of which appear to be unpublished; certainly Silkin did not publish them in Stand list of poems available upon request. Iris Rosalie Orton was a pioneer in the jazz and poetry movement and an early proponent of performance poetry. The Dreamer and the Sheaves is the first of her two published poetry collections; it was followed by A Man Singing in 1962, the same year in which she abruptly left her life in London for a new start in Sweden, where she took on the name Bearhope.
Born in 1925 in Sutton-on-Sea, Lincolnshire, Orton moved to London in 1950. She settled initially in Fitzrovia where her landlady was regularly visited by guests such as Sylvia Pankhurst and Amy Garvey, first wife of Marcus. Orton worked at the British Council, reading her poetry in clubs around Soho in the evenings, and contributed poetry to a number of magazines, including The Listener, The Glass, The Window, and the first issue of Stand in 1952. Orton also published her own poetry magazine Nightwatchman, to which poets such as James Kirkup, Dannie Abse, and Jane Lunt contributed. In 1959 she published a poetry manifesto entitled With Music In Mind: Motive And Method, which outlined her new approach to poetry reading. She sought to escape the staid atmosphere of traditional gatherings, and was inspired by listening to skiffle, jazz, rock 'n' roll and the blues. She often read her poems to music in coffee houses, initially with guitarist Marian Gray, then with Wally Whyton of The Vipers skiffle group.
Once moving to Sweden Orton vanished from the literary scene, and her contribution to British spoken word poetry in the 1950s has been woefully understudied. In Stockholm, supported by her partner Birgitta Magnusson, she continued to write poems privately for her church, its various charitable projects in Kenya, and her friends. Orton died on 16 February 2019 in Stockholm.
Octavo. Original red patterned paper boards, titles in black to paper label to front board and spine. With original glassine wrapper with paper flaps.
Spine lightly faded, rubbing to extremities; a very good copy indeed in the scarce glassine with slight loss and tears to edges and subsequent tape repair to spine ends.
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