Wilfrid Wilson Gibson

Wilfrid Wilson Gibson (October 2, 1878 - May 26, 1962), was a British poet, associated with World War I but also the author of much later work.

Early work

Gibson was born in Hexham, Northumberland and left the north for London in 1912 after his father died. He had been publishing poems in magazines since 1897, and the collections "Stonefolds", "On The Threshold", were published by the Samurai Press in 1907, and followed by "The Web of Life" in 1908. ['"Young men who knew that the age demanded something new in poetry were impressed by the austerity of his little 'working class' plays". (Joy Grant, "Harold Monro & the Poetry Bookshop" (1967), p.19. Whistler p.281 remarks on the "colloquial, homespun realism" that at first was admired in Gibson.]

Despite his residence in London and later on in Gloucestershire, many of Gibson's poems both then and later, have Northumberland settings: 'Hexham's Market Cross'; 'Hareshaw'; and 'The Kielder Stone'. Others deal with poverty and passion amid wild Northumbrian landscapes. Still others are devoted to fishermen, industrial workers and miners, often alluding to local ballads and the rich folk-song heritage of the North East.

It was in London that he met both Edward Marsh and Rupert Brooke, becoming a close friend and later Brooke's literary executor (with Lascelles Abercrombie and Walter de la Mare). [Gibson met de la Mare, and quite a number of other poets, through Marsh (Theresa Whistler, "Imagination of the Heart: The Life of Walter de la Mare" (1993), p.205 and 208) in 1912. "It was with de la Mare that Gibson was to make the closest friendship. Gentle and unlucky, he himself best fitted Brooke's description of those good-hearted and simple and nice poets he wanted to protect."] This was at the period when the first "Georgian Poetry" anthology was being hatched. Gibson was one of the insiders. [Paul Delany, "The Neo-Pagans" (1987), p.199, writes of a business lunch 19 September 1912 at Marsh's flat, with Gibson, John Drinkwater, Harold Monro and Arundel del Re.]

During the early part of his writing life, Wilfrid Wilson Gibson wrote poems that featured the "macabre." One such poem is "Flannan Isle", based on a real life mystery.

War poetry

He never saw active service during his brief time as an army private, but his poetry belies his lack of experience, "Breakfast" written in the book "Up To The Line Of Death - The War Poets 1914-1918" is a prime example of ironic war verse written during the very early stages of the conflict. Another example of his war-time poetry is "Back." In this poem the speaker wonders how to respond to the questions about what the speaker did in the war. The speaker does not believe that it was his true self who went across, however he knows that physically it was him.

On November 11th, 1985, Gibson was among 16 Great War poets commemorated on a slate stone unveiled in Westminster Abbey's Poet's Corner [http://net.lib.byu.edu/english/wwi/poets/poets.html] . The inscription on the stone was written by a fellow Great War poet, Wilfred Owen. It reads: "My subject is War, and the pity of War. The Poetry is in the pity." [http://net.lib.byu.edu/english/wwi/poets/Preface.html]

Reputation

His reputation was eclipsed somewhat by the Ezra Pound-T. S. Eliot school of Modernist poetry [ [http://www.litencyc.com/php/speople.php?rec=true&UID=4980 The "Literary Encyclopedia"] states that his reputation plummeted. Whistler p.282 has "Gibson's was the saddest fate of all the Georgians. Once acclaimed as the leader of an exciting new movement, , when that movement came into derision the critics found in him the epitome of its vices.] [A. Clutton-Brock (TLS, 24/2/1927, "Five Modern Poets") considers Gibson alongside Eliot, AE, Herbert Read and James Stephens (pp 113-114). It is concluded there that "Mr Gibson's poetry... has its own specific qualities and is, in its essentials unique". In 1942 Philip Tomlinson refers to Gibson as "this distinguished poet" (TLS 31/1/1942 p.57).] ; his work remained popular.

Further reading

*Dominic Hibberd, "Wilfrid Gibson and Harold Monro, the Pioneers" (Cecil Woolf, 2006)

External links

* [http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/FWWgibson.htm Page at "Spartacus"]
* [http://libus.csd.mu.edu/record=b1765375 Elizabeth Whitcomb Houghton Collection] , containng letters by Gibson

Notes


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