Unknown Katherine Mansfield Poems Found in Chicago Library
Nearly 30 unknown poems by Katherine Mansfield have been discovered in Chicago’s Newberry Library, giving fresh insight into the writer’s most painful and difficult period, the evidence for which she had later destroyed.
Gerri Kimber, senior lecturer in English at the University of Northampton and chair of the Katherine Mansfield Society, made the discovery in May this year. The collection’s significance had remained undetected until now because it was marked with a name similar to the New Zealand-born writer’s previously published poems.
“I had already looked at the Newberry’s Mansfield collection, and the folder said, ‘The Earth Child and other poems’. The poem ‘The Earth-Child in the Grass’ (its full title) had been published already,” said Kimber, who was attending a conference about Mansfield. “I had three days to spare so I wanted to go through every single thing the Newberry has pertaining to Mansfield. I thought, ‘I don’t recognise this one. Or this one. Or this one …’ I couldn’t believe my eyes!”
Kimber, series editor of the Collected Works of Katherine Mansfield, soon realised the folder in fact contained 26 unpublished poems (alongside a further nine that had been published already), two handwritten letters from Mansfield to a publisher, Mansfield’s calling card, and an auction dealer’s sale entry for the entire collection.
The business card in the folder also notes the writer’s name as “Katharina Mansfield”, a Slavic-influenced version that Kimber said Mansfield had signed on documents discovered previously, but no such calling card was known to exist.
Handwritten by Mansfield to publisher Elkin Mathews, one letter reads:
Dear Mr. Mathews
May I hear from you soon the fate of my poor ‘Earth Child’ Poems – I really am worrying about her immediate future – yea or nay.
Love her or hate her, Mr. Mathews, but do not leave her to languish!
The UK-based scholar thinks that these unpublished poems would have possibly earned Mansfield early recognition as a poetry writer.
The poems will be available to the public in the Newberry Library and made available online. Next year, the final volume of the Collected Works of Katherine Mansfield – The Diaries and Miscellany – will publish the new poetry collection in full for the first time.
Original article by Cameron Robertson, The Guardian, June 11, 2015.
Photo by Newberry Library, Chicago.