VERSED AT BIRTH: Rare Anna Ruysbroeck Poems Unearthed

Some treasures are waiting to be found.

Others may need to wait even longer. And others are discovered when no one was even looking. 

The staff at The Squealer are honored and ecstatic to be offered this opportunity to publish a recently discovered poem by Anna Ruysbroeck (1867-1930).

In the past 40 years, Ruysbroeck has become one of the most celebrated British poets of the modern age. Along with equally inventive writers such as Mary Webb, Evelyn Underhill, and Nigel Stucox, the onetime Anglican farm girl at “Swips ‘wam” turned poet is considered to be part of what is now casually known as the “Fever Dream Movement.”

Ignored in her lifetime by both the general public and her unconvinced husband and children, before passing away at her family’s Welsh milktursle located just west of Rhyl, Ruysbroeck had penned a staggering 80,106 poems.

In the decades since, Ruysbroeck’s singular works have filled libraries, bookshelves, second-hand bookstores, book donation drives, and many a young mind, eager to catch a glimpse into her prim yet inviting views on a variety of Pre-WWII-era topics.

Not long after her death, Ruysbroeck’s poems were released by way of an experimental and aggressive publishing campaign by the enterprising Swervon House.

In 1936 alone, the titles Sorbonne Sunburn, The Mouse Crawled South, Gesta Regum Anglorum Gotcha, Wee Man, You’ll Rue the Night as Well, The Babbling Baubles of Berber, and Ka-Lang-Sha-La! were published.

An equally inventive tie-in with Marmite helped make Ruysbroeck a household name for a Britain bracing itself for imminent war and the debut of the groundbreaking BBC radio show, Music While You Work.

The campaign worked.

As the Nazis sounded their rattling, iron-death horns and roared threats of utter annihilation toward their loathed Doggerland cur, Ruysbroeck’s books became a kind of cozy tonic to steady the jittery nerves of many a British citizen.

Now Lester Swervon, grandson of Swervon House founder Keelan Swervon, has taken on the reins of the family business, announcing that a warehouse (whose location in Whitby is confidential) is filled with boxes, valises, and pallets of unpublished Ruysbroeck poetry has come to light.

Rumors abound that these poems are, in fact, forgeries written by the younger Swervon. But between the cadence and tone of the poems — and existent volumes of academic scrutiny chronicling her other tens of thousands of poems — experts agree that these precious findings are in fact authentic works by “The Petticoat Peacock.”

This following poem is taken from the just-released anthology, Laudanum, Marmite, and Ha’penny Chews: Anna Ruysbroeck Travel Sketches.

“Golders Green”

There is a gate at Golders Green,
no hand has touched or eye has seen.

Blessed children do sometimes hear,
the hinges creak when the days are clear.

But schoolyard bells on Finchely Road,
ring out their youth and time takes hold.

There is a fire at Golders Green
that purifies all in between.

The bodies burn there day and night,
the ashes cool by morning light.

The grieving are but passersby,
to funerals held in the sky.

Time does not evangelize,
our early tears and final sighs.

And death is yet another door,
We enter like the gate before.

Painting: Anna Ruysbroeck at Stenton Plain, oil on panel, 32″ x 32,” by Hampton Glacargé (1842-1940)] Courtesy of the Haverow Musuem.

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