I’ve known Kevin Crossley-Holland since October 1969 when he took up the Gregory Fellowship in Poetry at the University of Leeds. Kevin had yet to publish his first collection, but he’d already published well-received translations of Anglo-Saxon poems and the Exeter Book of Riddles as well as a translation of Beowulf into modern English making it accessible and entertaining for the ordinary reader long before Seamus Heaney arrayed the poem in the speech of a Northern Irishman. Poems from Kevin’s first collection, The Rain-Giver, published in 1972, were submitted to the group of student poets he assembled at Leeds. This was modelled on Poets’ Workshop, the more formal child of The Group, whose influence, especially in the person of Philip Hobsbaum, on British and Irish poetry in the last part of the twentieth century cannot be overestimated. Kevin’s mentoring of his poets was gentler than the rigorous rite of passage that poets experienced in Poets’ Workshop, but it was an apprenticeship of a kind for a young poet such as myself for which I can never thank him enough. Kevin also introduced poets from outside the University, most notably Chris Pilling, a brilliant translator of Tristan Corbière and Catullus and Glyn Hughes. Kevin also brought along the legendary publisher of Peterloo Books, Harry Chambers, then publishing Phoenix magazine from Manchester.
Gravity for Beginners is the eleventh collection since 1972. It is something of a wonder to recognise in this latest book much of the poet from the first collection. In subject matter, the landscapes or seascapes ...
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