THE CLOSE CHAPLET by Laura Riding
Long out of print, The Close Chaplet is Laura Riding’s first book, originally published in 1926. Riding deliberately ceased writing poems after 1940, when she came to see poetry as irrevocably flawed as a means of expression. These poems demonstrate Riding’s early desire to depart from “the close and well-tilled ground” of traditional lyric poetry. According to her biographer, Elizabeth Friedman, “many of the poems for The Close Chaplet were brought in typescript from New York, a few were added in Egypt, and the entire text was carefully edited by Robert [Graves].”
In his introduction, Mark Jacobs writes that Riding was “identifying herself with the pre-moment, the ‘what-was-there’ before Creation. How did the world, the universe, come to exist, why does it exist, why does it die, why do we?” From these questions, Riding begins to develop a theory about the role of women as the origin of all human beings, the only animals with written language. This edition also includes Riding’s essay “A Prophecy or a Plea,” a statement of her poetics initially published in 1926.
"... as the words and their rhythms worked upon me and then within me, I found in due course that here were not so much spells as acts of verbal disenchantment, inspired unravellings of the world's riddle."
— Robert Nye
Laura Riding was a poet, novelist, short-story writer, essayist, and publisher. While primarily known for the critical works that she co-authored with Robert Graves—A Pamphlet Against Anthologies and A Survey of Modernist Poetry—Riding also left behind an incredibly powerful body of poetry and prose works that, regrettably, remain little read today. These include The Close Chaplet, The Lives of Wives, and The Progress of Stories. Famously rejecting poetry early in her career, she spent the last decades of her life co-writing a theoretical work on linguistics, Rational Meaning, with her husband Schuyler Jackson. She was awarded the Bollingen Prize in 1991, the very same year she died.