The poetry of Valentine Ackland (1906-69) touches the twentieth century at key points. The poet who worked for the Red Cross during the Spanish Civil War lived to oppose the war in Vietnam. A Communist Party member in the 1930s, she became a Roman Catholic in the 1950s. In her political poems and her pastoral and spiritual lyrics, she displays a passionate commitment to truth. Above all, she is one of the most hauntingly erotic poets of the century. This is the first collection to draw on the full range of Ackland's poems, and includes the entire text of Whether a Dove or Seagull, the poetic narrative of their relationship that Ackland published with Sylvia Townsend Warner in 1934, legendary but long out of print. Frances Bingham's illuminating discussions of each stage of Ackland's life set her work in context, an important contribution to placing Ackland in twentieth-century poetry.
Valentine Ackland was born in 1906. Her childhood embraced extremes of privilege and abuse within a wealthy but unhappy family. In 1930 she became Sylvia Townsend Warner's lover, and the two writers lived together in Dorset. By the end of the Second World War the relationship had become a stormy one, marked by intellectual disagreements. In latter years it became happier, and the two continued to live together until Ackland's death in 1969.