Jersey Archive holds a small number of poems that have been written in response to the situations in which Islander’s found themselves and their interactions with the world around them. Facsimiles of some have been placed on display and are available to view, free of charge, from 29 September during normal Tuesday to Thursday opening hours.
The poems on display include material inspired by the Occupation, Jersey’s Maritime connections, the natural world and the Jèrriais poems of hearth and home. Also included are copies of two poems with Elizabethan and Shakespearian connections written by Sir Robert Devereux, Second Earl of Essex and David Garrick, the 18th century actor.
The Occupation poems on display were written by people from Jersey and show different reactions to and experiences of this particular period in history. ‘Answer to a Red Cross Letter’, ‘The Ten Commandments’ and ‘Little Things That We Observe’ all show the deprivations suffered by those living in Jersey. However, whilst ‘Red Cross Letter’ finishes with an optimistic message in which Jersey rises to meet the future, ‘Little Things That We Observe’ uses poetry as a political tool.
Also on display is a book of verse written by Augusta Chambers de Gruchy . It includes a poem entitled ‘The End’ which touches on the landscape of the St Aubin shoreline. De Gruchy and her husband William left Jersey as a result of the banking crash of the 1880s. They moved to London, becoming friends with members of the Pre-Raphaelite movement.
A second volume on display includes the work of Abraham Cowley, a leading 17th century poet celebrated in his day. Cowley visited Jersey during the Civil War period taking coded messages between England and France. In his poem, he bemoans the lack of culture in the Island but praises the Islanders for their loyalty to the Royalist cause.
Archives and Collections Director Linda Romeril said ‘Jersey Heritage is delighted to be able to support the Island’s first literary festival and to have a chance to show some of the treasures that we hold at Jersey Archive. Many of the poems on display, such as ‘The Loss of the Normandy’ and the Occupation poetry, are inspired by significant historic events. Through poetry and literature we can gain valuable insights into people’s reactions to and interpretation of those events.’
For more information on the events of the Island’s first literary festival please see http://www.jerseyfestivalofwords.org/.