July 1, 2019
47 color illus., 2 b&w illus.
9.00 Inches (US)
6.00 Inches (US)
$22.00 USD, £17.00 GBP
v2.1 Reference

Poems Written Abroad

The Lilly Library Manuscript

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.

About the Authors

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.


"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."—Nicholas Jenkins, coeditor of "In Solitude, for Company": W. H. Auden after 1940

"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?"—Massimo Bacigalupo, author of The Forméd Trace: The Later Poetry of Ezra Pound

"Crackling with sensuality and ... poetic ambition."—Jim McCue, editor (with Christopher Ricks) of The Poems of T. S. Eliot: Collected and Uncollected Poems Vol 1

"Poems Written Aboard doesn't have the stupendous weight of his [Spender's] best-known poems or even the clever fun of his prose works, but it is delightful on several other levels. Clearly it's a notebook of someone who wants to be a poet, who must be a poet, and who is spending a summer on the continent, teaching himself the trade.... Christoph Irmscher's fourteen-page introduction, along with his bibliography and notes, tell you all you need to know about the manuscript's history and its details."—Felice Picano, The Gay & Lesbian Review

"Highly recommended."—Choice

"Poems Written Abroad is a sort of prelude to the Spender story. It's a facsimile, with facing page transcription, of a poetic notebook that Spender kept for a couple of months in his late teens, while brushing up his French in Nantes and Lausanne before going up to Oxford. It is a very handsome production published by the Lilly Library of Indiana University. There are a few intimations of the poet he would become: Christoph Irmscher in his excellent introduction notices the way the images bump against one another 'like a badly made puzzle', and also 'the pervasive feeling that somewhere someone is having a more authentic experience'."—Seamus Perry, London Review of Books

9780253041678 : poems-written-abroad-spender-irmscher
160 Pages
$22.00 USD

Other Titles by Christoph Irmscher

Love and Loss in Hollywood

edited by Cooper C. Graham, Christoph Irmscher
Feb 2021 - Indiana University Press
$80.00 USD - Hardback
$45.00 USD - Paperback / softback

[RE]Imagining Science

Christoph Irmscher, Rosamond Purcell
Jun 2017 - Indiana University Press
$12.00 USD - Paperback / softback

Other Titles from Special Publications of the Lilly Library

The Impossible Arises

Chris Mortensen
Aug 2022 - Indiana University Press
$50.00 USD - Hardback

A Legacy of Honor

Kate Cruikshank
Mar 2019 - Indiana University Press
$19.00 USD - Paperback / softback

Richard G. Lugar

Dan Diller, Sara Stefani
Feb 2019 - Indiana University Press
$25.00 USD - Paperback / softback

Other Titles in POETRY / European / English, Irish, Scottish, Welsh

A Sourcebook for English Lyric Poetry

John Tomarchio
Apr 2023 - The Catholic University of America Press
$34.95 USD - Paperback / softback

Separation Anxiety

Gavin Bradley
May 2022 - University of Alberta Press
$19.99 USD - Paperback / softback

The Collected Poems and Journals of Mary Tighe

Mary Tighe, edited by Harriet Kramer Linkin
Dec 2021 - University Press of Kentucky
$30.00 USD - Hardback
$70.00 USD - Electronic book text