Go for it, petal. Nothing's as real as what you write. (from Writing to Onegin, Ruth Padel)
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About Ruth Padel
Ruth Padel (b. 1947) has won the National Poetry Competition and written six collections of poetry, several shortlisted for the T.S. Eliot or Whitbread Prize; taught Greek at Oxford, sung in an Istanbul nightclub, is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature and Zoological Society of London, and a great great grand-daughter of Charles Darwin.
She writes prose as well as poetry. “There are few women writing non-fiction today with such a sophisticated understanding of language, nuanced approach to style, and willingness to engage with the big issues, personal and political” (Guardian). The much-loved 52 Ways of Looking at a Poem is based on her Independent on Sunday column (in which she discussed one contemporary poem each week), and I’m A Man, on Greek myth, rock music and the “invention of the teenager”, featured as a clue in Ian Rankin’s thriller A Question of Blood. In Tigers in Red Weather she searches for wild tigers in Asian jungles.
Her poems draw unselfconsciously on an unusual breadth of cultural reference: high and low, humour and gravity, sit in strangely democratic balance in her work. ‘Writing to Onegin’ illustrates the Times Literary Supplement‘s account of her poetry as “Wallace Stevens hijacking Sylvia Plath with a dash of punk Sappho thrown in.” In a free version of a passage from Pushkin it combines references to Charon and Darth Vader in dense, musical lines which celebrate the risk in writing anything, especially as a woman.
Art and creativity permeate her work. ‘Shaping Up’ and ‘Kiss’ show musician Tori Amos and painter Bridget Riley making new music and new painting, finding “a shape for pain.” ‘Pharoah’s Cup’ is celebrated for its beauty: “Who wouldn’t be glad / To have made it?” In ‘Icicles Round A Tree In Dumfriesshire’ (winner of the 1997 National Poetry Competition), an ice-sculpture evokes meditation on love, creativity and truth.
Padel’s expressive reading style matches the poems’ rich texture. She provides illuminating introductions to each poem: even, endearingly, mentioning when a factual detail in a poem has turned out to be wrong. This recording shows her, in Jeanette Winterson’s words, as “sexy, strong, rhythmic, passionate, fully alive and a whiz with words.”
Ruth's recording was made on 29 January 2003 at the Audio Workshop, London, and was produced by Richard Carrington.
Poems by Ruth Padel
Books by Ruth Padel
Rembrandt Would Have Loved You
The Soho Leopard
Darwin – A Life in Poems
The Mara Crossing
Learning to Make an Oud in Nazareth
Tidings – A Christmas Journey
"Beethoven Variations: Poems on a Life"
Wingate ScholarshipPrize website
Arts Council Writers' Award for poetry collection FusewirePrize website
First Prize, UK National Poetry CompetitionPrize website
Appointed Fellow of The Royal Society of LiteraturePrize website
Rembrandt Would Have Loved You, Shortlisted for T S Eliot PrizePrize website
Cholmondeley Award from Society of AuthorsPrize website
Research Award from Calouste Gulbenkian FoundationPrize website
Voodoo Shop, Shortlisted for Whitbread PrizePrize website
Voodoo Shop shorlisted for Whitbread PrizePrize website
The Soho Leopard, Shortlisted for T S Eliot PrizePrize website
Tigers in Red Weather shortlisted in USA for Kiriyama PrizePrize website
First Writer in Residence at Somerset HousePrize website
Darwin – A Life in Poems, Shortlisted for Costa PrizePrize website
Elected Professor of Poetry at Oxford UniversityPrize website
The Mara Crossing, Shortlisted for Ted Hughes AwardPrize website
Learning to Make an Oud in Nazareth, Shortlisted for T S Eliot PrizePrize website
First Writer in Residence, Royal Opera HousePrize website