Unseen War Poems Publication/Copyright Case For British Museum – Poetry News Roundup July 10th

We begin the week with a look at some previously unseen First World War poems that are to be published. We also have a story about a poet suing the British Museum.

Celebrated First World War Poet’s Unseen Poems to be Published

The University of York is making a collection of poems that have been previously unseen available to the public. The poems were written by John Stanley Purvis, the celebrated First World War poet. During his lifetime, all of Purvis’s work was published under the name Philip Johnson and his real identity was never revealed.

Following his death in 1968 the poet’s sister, Hilda, revealed him as the celebrated poet this identification was confirmed with the discovery of a notebook of handwritten poems that was located amongst an archive of personal documentation that belonged to the poet and which was donated to the Borthwick Institute for Archives, a part of the University of York, in 1991.

Following the war, Purvis became an archivist and a clergyman, and in 1953, he established the Borthwick Institute for Archives, which was initially not a part of the university. The poems now attributed to Cannon Purvis of York Minster are to be published as Versus and Fragments, Poems of the Great War. This will be an anthology of poetry to mark the 70th anniversary of the founding of the Institute.

It is very unclear why Purvis may have chosen a pen name for his poetry. His sister believed that the poems were forwarded to the media without his knowledge by a friend. There is much belief, however that Purvis’s experiences during the war – he spent several months at the front, was injured and suffered from shellshock and also the trauma of losing his brother in 1917 – may have contributed to his desire for anonymity.

During the war, he also risked his life taking photographs documenting his experiences, something he would have been court-martialled for had it been discovered at the time. Despite all of this, his poetry is some of the most treasured and haunting of the Great War. When it comes to war poetry, whilst he may not be as well known as Wilfred Owen and Siegfried Sassoon, his work is as well regarded in literary circles.

The notebooks are meticulous, with each poem bearing the date on which it was written. Some of them were penned at Cambridge when Purvis was a student, some date to when he was a schoolteacher at Cranleigh, and the rest are from his time on the Western Front.

Poet to Sue British Museum over Copywrite Issues

Yilin Wang, a Vancouver-based, poet, writer and translator, is planning to sue the British Museum over copyright issues having crowdsourced almost £15,000 to help pay legal fees.

The poet is alleging that the British Museum had recently featured a fully published copy of her translation of a poem by Chinese poet Qiu Jin without gaining her permission. The poem formed part of an exhibition titled China’s Hidden Century.

When challenged over the use of the poem, the museum removed it in all forms from the exhibition, but their communication with the poet was rather lacking in her opinion.

The museum has stated that when they were made aware of the problem, they offered Yilin Wang a fee four times the amount they would usually pay to someone to feature their work as part of an exhibition.

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