Over the course of 25 years, he built up a collection of 8,500 poems about their love and the life they shared together.
Three decades ago, actor Peter Gordon penned a little poem for his wife Alison and left it under her pillow. Although his impromptu romantic gesture was "just for a laugh," Alison quite enjoyed it so he decided to write more poems for her. Thus began a 25-year-long tradition where he'd write a few verses for her every day, gradually building up a collection of 8,500 poems about their love and the life they shared together. Even today, four years after his beloved Alison succumbed to lung cancer, Gordon continues to write poems for her.
"She was quite amused by it, both charmed and flattered, as I had hoped, and I went on from there to turning it into little rhymes and then the rhymes got bigger and bigger and I started doing it every day. So it became a custom," the 87-year-old told The Guardian. "I was out of work sometimes, or hanging about in the dressing room, so it was something for me to do, and something I felt I wished to express quite deeply." Gordon's expansive archive of poems is now being admired by a wider audience thanks to the couples' daughters Cassie—a charity content creator—and Anna—a writer who has worked on Succession and Killing Eve— who've immortalized them through the website A Love in Verse.
"She was very touched and used to look forward to it. It started off as little notes and then little poems. I would put them under her pillow, she would come to bed, look under the pillow, give it to me, and I would read it to her. Then I'd give it to her and she would read it silently and then fold it up and put it back under the pillow," Gordon told BBC of his and Alison's incredibly romantic tradition. A Love in Verse features about 340 of Gordon's poems dating all the way back to May 1980.
They are a reflection of the life Gordon and Alison shared, from the moment he fell for her while appearing in a play together in Edinburgh in 1973 to his grief following her death in 2016. "She was lovely. She was quite forthright in her opinions, which I always admired," he now remembers her. "She was an actor like me, so that attracted me - a very good actor. She was just kind, assured in a sense, but we were both a little lost when we met." The poems also conveyed the contentment of being together in their "wild, tangled" home in Brentford, West London, "secure against the world and weather," and his constant struggle to make ends meet as an actor.
"I was obsessed with earning enough money to keep the family going and the home going," Gordon explained. After Alison's death, he began sorting through the thousands of poems left behind, reliving their life together. "I realized that I had thousands of these pages knocking about in a big wooden box in a shed at the bottom of the garden, and I ought to sort them out, see if they were any good," he said. "I was quite exercised to find out if they were any good. If I was going to do anything vis-a-vis my wife to show my love, my regret that she’d died, I wanted it to be good, so I was going through them with a fine-tooth comb. I felt that some of them might be considered reasonably good. That was what kept me going."
Gordon's poems for Alison are gaining quite a bit of attention online, with many of their family friends and fellow actors recording performances of some of the poems. He still writes for his late wife, although no longer every day. "Only once every so often. Quite frankly it’s difficult because it’s quite painful, her loss is still very keen," he said. "Although there is lots of pain involved, A Love in Verse is ultimately a joyful thing – that I committed all of those hours, all those years, to show my love for her. That expresses it most aptly, I think."