Laura Riding Jackson

Laura Riding Jackson (1901 - 1991)

Laura Riding Jackson (January 16, 1901 – September 2, 1991) was a United States poet, novelist, essayist and short story writer. She was born Laura Reichenthal in New York to a family of Austrian immigrants, and educated at Cornell University, where she began to write poetry. She was associated at this point with the Fugitives and shared much of their poetic (and political) credo. Her first marriage, to Louis Gottschalt, ended in divorce in 1925, at which point she went to live in Europe where she would remain for many years.

Her first collection of poetry, The Close Chaplet, was published in 1926, and it was at this point that she assumed the surname Riding. By this time her poetry had become much more original: generally abandoning traditional metres for a highly unconventional form of free verse. Shortly afterwards she met Robert Graves in London, and persuaded him to live with her in Mediterranean exile (it is generally agreed that it was Riding who was the major cause of the break up of Grave’s first marriage: the whole affair caused a famous literary scandal). After Grave and Riding moved to Majorca they became highly productive, setting up a publishing house (The Seizin Press) running a literary magazine (Epilogue), collaborating on A Survey of Modernist Poetry (1927) (which some believe inaugurated the New Criticism) and other works, whilst both of them continued to write many volumes of major poetry. Eventually, they parted (highly acrimoniously) and she married Schuyler B. Jackson in 1941.

Riding began by taking a neo-Platonic view of poetry, in that she viewed poetry as the conduit for metaphysical truths. She was also highly influenced by neo-Romantic views of the poet as being the ‘unacknowledged legislator of the world’, a sort of secular prophet. After World War II she lost her faith in poetry, however, and ‘renounced’ it, choosing to concentrate on her linguistics influenced philosophy. This was a famous decision, and in some ways indicative of the renunciation of Platonism and Metaphysics after World War II that goes by the name of Post-Modernism. Therefore, her Collected Poems is one of the key Modernist texts. Progress of Stories is probably her best prose work.