Perhaps more famous for novels like Women in Love and short stories like “The Rocking Horse Winner” D.H. Lawrence is also a major figure in British poetry. Lawrence was highly influenced by the American poet Walt Whitman and, in fact, would often send out copies of Whitman’s groundbreaking tome Leaves of Grass to friends and acquaintances. Lawrence’s ability to pull off the triple play of letters—novels, short stories and poetry—left him only lacking in a certifiably impressive body of drama to keep him from becoming perhaps the single most spectacularly accomplished man of letters in British history.
He began writing verse when just 19 years old. “To Guelder-Roses’” and “To Campions” mark the beginning of a stage of development that would end nearly 800 poems later. As if often the case, it took his own death and then some additional time for the literary merit of Lawrence’s poetry to be fully appreciated. In fact, the 21st century has witnesses an amazing rise up the ladder of critical appreciation for the verse of Lawrence. Just as almost every one of his novels (though, surprisingly, only a limited number of his shorter fiction) was routinely castigated as little more than pornography all dressed up in fine writing, so was Lawrence’s poetry often undervalued due to content rather than style.
The poetry of D.H. Lawrence which has best stood the test of time is infused with a philosophical appreciation of the reality of changes in morals, mores and values than the philosophy of his own time. By the nearly all conventional notions of absolutism in such manners had evaporated along with the 20th century, the least appreciated of Lawrence’s literary indulgences had finally met its time to shine. And shine it has as Lawrence is now finally receiving his late due as a poet of the same high quality with which he is regarded as a novelist and short story writer.