Dweller in Shadows: A Life of Ivor Gurney

Princeton Univ. Jun. 2021. 512p. ISBN 9780691212784. $35. BIOG
In this biography of Ivor Gurney, the poet known for his verses about the Great War (including the 1917 poetry collection Severn and Somme), Kennedy (music and English, Wolfson Coll., Oxford) describes his passion for creativity and learning and his hardheadedness, recognizing that he was gifted but also arrogant. She reveals some of Gurney’s literary and musical influences, including the composer Schubert and the Gloucestershire poet Will Harvey, to name a few. One of the book’s major subjects is Gurney’s lifelong struggle with manic-depressive swings. From the 1910s on, and particularly after World War I, when Gurney was wounded in the Battle of Passchendaele, his mental health drastically declined; eventually, so did his physical health. Kennedy reveals that during these years, Gurney brought out more poetry and other writing that went unpublished. The book deftly sheds light on how Gurney produced his much respected work.
VERDICT Recommend to readers who enjoy reading about 20th-century poetry and the emotional lives behind art.
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