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Pilling, Christopher, 1936-, poet

  • Person
  • 1936-

Christopher Pilling was a prize-winner in the National Poetry Competition and has published nine collections of his own poetry, as well as translations of poems by Tristan Corbière (a Book of the Year for the Sunday Telegraph and the World Service of the BBC in 1995), Max Jacob and Lucien Becker (a PBS Recommended Translation in 2004). He has also written a number of plays. With William Scammell, he founded a Cumbrian Poets' workshop which has run for thirty years, and has seen two of his plays performed at the Theatre by the Lake in Keswick. In 2006, Christopher Pilling won first prize in the John Dryden Translation Competition, one of the UK's most prestigious translation awards.

Foreign Bodies is an original poetry collection published in 1992. Love at the Full is an English translation of Lucien Becker's Plein Amour , and was published in 2004. Springing From Catullus is an English translation of Catullus' complete works, and was published in 2009.

Almond, Maureen, dates unknown, poet

  • Person

Maureen Almond graduated with an MA in poetry from the University of Newcastle-upon-Tyne in 2002 and gained the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy in recognition of a thesis entitled ‘What Use is Poetry?’ on 10th October, 2013. She works in schools and communities and as an Adult Education tutor.

Maureen Almond's poetry collection Recollections was published in 2008. It features photography by Glyn Goodrick, and was commissioned by the Director of Archaeological Museums for Newcastle University, Lindsay Allason-Jones.

Sharp, Thomas, 1901 - 1978, town planner

  • Person
  • 1901 - 1978

Thomas Sharp was a key figure in town planning in the mid-twentieth century. The concepts he developed in his writings and plans have been of enduring significance and influence on thinking about planning and design for both practitioners and academics in the UK and beyond. He was a major influence on the development of ideas of townscape and the significance of his thinking on historic cities stands comparison with, for example, Camillo Sitte.

The mid-twentieth century was a period when public and professional interest in planning was at an all-time high. Sharp was a key figure in defining thinking about the forms that town and countryside should take; in reconciling existing and valued character with modernity, and; in making these arguments accessible. His book Town Planning (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1940) is the most widely-read ever on the subject and followed earlier influential polemical works. The plans he produced in the 1940s, primarily for historic cities such as Oxford, Exeter and Durham, were also hugely influential and are significant aesthetic artefacts in the history of plan-making, all the more remarkable for being produced in a period of austerity.

Interest in Sharp and his ideas has grown markedly in recent years with, for example, the rise of 'New Urbanism' in the USA and of the significance of design issues in UK planning. Furthermore, there is a new-wave of scholarly interest in the post-war reconstruction planning and architecture of the mid-twentieth century as a distinctive period in planning and design, particularly focused around reconstruction plans and their partial implementation.

Zephaniah, Benjamin, 1958-, writer and poet

  • Person
  • 1958-

Benjamin Zephaniah is an oral poet, novelist, playwright, children’s writer and reggae artist. Born in 1958 in Birmingham, he grew up in Handsworth, where he was sent to an approved school for being uncontrollable, rebellious and ‘a born failure’, ending up in jail for burglary and affray.

After prison he turned from crime to music and poetry. In 1989 he was nominated for Oxford Professor of Poetry, and has since received honorary doctorates from several English universities, but famously refused to accept a nomination for an OBE in 2003. He was voted Britain's third favourite poet of all time (after T.S. Eliot and John Donne) in a BBC poll in 2009. In 2011 he was poet-in-residence at Keats House in 2011, and then made a radical career change by taking up his first ever academic position as a chair in Creative Writing at Brunel University in West London.

He has appeared in a number of television programmes, including Eastenders, The Bill, Live and Kicking, Blue Peter and Wise Up, and played Gower in a BBC Radio 3 production of Shakespeare’s Pericles in 2005.

Best known for his performance poetry with a political edge for adults – and his poetry with attitude for children – he has his own rap/reggae band. He has produced numerous recordings, including Dub Ranting (1982), Rasta (1983), Us and Dem (1990), Back to Roots (1995), Belly of de Beast (1996) and Naked (2004). He was the first person to record with the Wailers after the death of Bob Marley, in a musical tribute to Nelson Mandela, which Mandela heard while in prison on Robben Island. Their later meetings led to Zephaniah working with children in South African townships and hosting the President’s Two Nations Concert at the Royal Albert Hall in 1996.

His first book of poems, Pen Rhythm, was produced in 1980 by a small East London publishing cooperative, Page One Books. His second collection, The Dread Affair, was published by Hutchinson’s short-lived Arena imprint in 1985. He has since published three collections with Bloodaxe, City Psalms (1992), Propa Propaganda (1996) and Too Black Too Strong (2001), the latter including poems written while working with Michael Mansfield QC and other Tooks barristers on the Stephen Lawrence case. His DVD-book To Do Wid Me: Benjamin Zephaniah live and direct (filmed by Pamela Robertson-Pearce) is out from Bloodaxe Books in 2013.

His other titles include his poetry books for children, Talking Turkeys (1994), Funky Chickens (1996) and Wicked World (2000), all from Puffin/Penguin; his novels for teenagers, Face (1999), Refugee Boy (2001), Gangsta Rap (2004) and Teacher’s Dead (2007), all from Bloomsbury; The Bloomsbury Book of Love Poems (1999); Schools Out: Poems Not for School (1997) and The Little Book of Vegan Poems (2001) from AK Press; and We Are Britain (Frances Lincoln, 2003).

Yi Sha, 1966-, poet

  • Person
  • 1966-

Yi Sha was born in 1966 in Chengdu, and moved with his family at the age of two to the central Chinese city of Xi’an in Shaanxi province. He published his first poems while still at school, studied Chinese at Beijing Normal University, and became a noted figure among China’s university student poets.

Yang Lian, 1955-, poet

  • Person
  • 1955-

Yang Lian was one of the original Misty Poets who reacted against the strictures of the Cultural Revolution. Born in Switzerland, the son of a diplomat, he grew up in Beijing and began writing when he was sent to the countryside in the 1970s. On his return he joined the influential literary magazine Jintian (Today). His work was criticised in China in 1983 and formally banned in 1989 when he organised memorial services for the dead of Tiananmen while in New Zealand. He was a Chinese poet in exile from 1989 to 1995, finally settling in London in 1997. Translations of his poetry include three collections with Bloodaxe, Where the Sea Stands Still (1999), a Poetry Book Society Recommended Translation, Concentric Circles (2005), and Lee Valley Poems (2009), as well as his long poem Yi (Green Integer, USA, 2002) and Riding Pisces: Poems from Five Collections (Shearsman, 2008), a compilation of earlier work. He is co-editor with W.N. Herbert of Jade Ladder: Contemporary Chinese Poetry (Bloodaxe Books, 2012), and was awarded the International Nonino Prize in 2012.

Wrigley, Robert, 1951-, poet and educator

  • Person
  • 1951-

Robert Wrigley was born in 1951 in East St Louis, Illinois. He was drafted in 1971, but later discharged as a conscientious objector. The first in his family to graduate from college, and the first male for generations to escape work in a coal mine, Wrigley earned his MFA from the University of Montana. He has been awarded fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Rockefeller Foundation, the Guggenheim Foundation, and the Idaho Commission on the Arts. He has taught at Lewis-Clark State College, Warren Wilson College, the University of Oregon and the University of Montana, and now teaches on the MFA program at the University of Idaho. He lives in the woods on Moscow Mountain, Idaho, with his wife, writer Kim Barnes.

His first book to be published in the UK, The Church of Omnivorous Light: Selected Poems (Bloodaxe Books, 2013), draws on several collections published in the US, including Beautiful Country (2010); Earthly Meditations: New and Selected Poems (2006); Lives of the Animals (2003), winner of the Poets Prize; Reign of Snakes (1999), winner of the Kingsley Tufts Award; and In the Bank of Beautiful Sins (1995), winner of the San Francisco Poetry Center Book Award and finalist for the Lenore Marshall Award from the Academy of American Poets. Wrigley has also won the J. Howard and Barbara M.J. Wood Prize, Poetry magazine’s Frederick Bock Prize, the Poetry Society of America’s Celia B. Wagner Award, Poetry Northwest’s Theodore Roethke Award, and six Pushcart Prizes.

Wright, James Arlington, 1927-1980, poet

  • Person
  • 1927-1980

James Arlington Wright was born in Martins Ferry, Ohio, in 1927. His father worked for 50 years at a glass factory, and his mother left school at 14 to work in a laundry; neither attended school beyond the eighth grade. While in high school in 1943 Wright suffered a nervous breakdown and missed a year of school. When he graduated in 1946, a year late, he joined the army and was stationed in Japan during the American occupation. He then attended Kenyon College on the G.I. Bill, and studied under John Crowe Ransom. He graduated in 1952, then married another Martins Ferry native, Liberty Kardules. The two travelled to Austria, where, on a Fulbright Fellowship, Wright studied the works of Theodor Storm and Georg Trakl at the University of Vienna. He returned to the US, studying with Theodore Roethke and Stanley Kunitz at the University of Washington, and went on to teach at The University of Minnesota, Macalester College, and New York City's Hunter College.

The poverty and human suffering Wright witnessed as a child profoundly influenced his writing and he used his poetry as a mode to discuss his political and social concerns. He modelled his work after Thomas Hardy and Robert Frost, whose engagement with profound human issues and emotions he admired. The subjects of Wright's earlier books, The Green Wall (winner of the Yale Series of Younger Poets award, 1957) and Saint Judas (1959), include men and women who have lost love or have been marginalised from society for such reasons as poverty and sexual orientation, and they invite the reader to step in and experience the pain of their isolation. Wright possessed the ability to reinvent his writing style at will, moving easily from stage to stage. His earlier work adheres to conventional systems of meter and stanza, while his later work exhibits more open, looser forms, as with The Branch Will Not Break (1963).

James Wright was elected a fellow of The Academy of American Poets in 1971, and the following year his Collected Poems received the Pulitzer Prize in poetry. He died in New York City in 1980. Above the River: Complete Poems was published in the US in 1990 and then in the UK by Bloodaxe Books in 1992.

Wright, Carolyn, 1949-, poet

  • Person
  • 1949-

C.D. Wright has published more than fifteen books of poetry and prose, including two book-length poems, Deepstep Come Shining (1998) and Just Whistle (1993); Cooling Time (2005), a book comprised of poetry, memoir and essay; and One with Others (Copper Canyon Press, USA, 2010; Bloodaxe Books, UK, 2013), both a book-length poem and a work of investigative journalism.

Her first UK retrospective, Like Something Flying Backwards: New & Selected Poems (Bloodaxe Books, 2007), was expanded from Steal Away: Selected and New Poems (Copper Canyon Press, 2003), including a substantial number of the poems from her Griffin International Prize-winning collection Rising, Falling, Hovering (Copper Canyon Press, 2008).

Her many honours include a Lannan Literary Award, a $500,000 MacArthur Fellowship and the $50,000 2009 Griffin International Poetry Prize for Rising, Falling, Hovering (Copper Canyon Press, 2008). She is a professor of English at Brown University, and edited Lost Roads Publishers for 30 years with her husband, poet Forrest Gander. She has collaborated on many projects with photographer Deborah Luster, most recently One Big Self: Prisoners of Louisiana (2003/2007). She was State Poet of Rhode Island from 1995 to 1999.

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