Kevin Crossley-Holland

Image by John Hedgecoe

Kevin Crossley-Holland

b. 1941

There is something white stars say to you/and you throw off all the night to hear the sound of falling snow. - 'White Noise', Kevin Crossley-Holland

The Grain of Things

Kevin Crossley-Holland



Kevin Crossley-Holland

Translation Workshop: Grit and Blood

Kevin Crossley-Holland


Waterslain: Diz, Shuck, Beachcomber

Kevin Crossley-Holland

Dusk, Burnham-Overy-Staithe

Kevin Crossley-Holland

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About Kevin Crossley-Holland

Kevin Crossley-Holland (b. 1941) grew up with a passion for history, encouraged by a father who recited folk tales to his son, accompanying himself on a Welsh harp. The young Kevin was so entranced by the medieval and ancient past that he even set up a museum in the garden shed. At Oxford University he developed an abiding love of Anglo-Saxon, something that has re-surfaced time and again in his writing career, in his translations, his re-telling of myths and the "singan ond secgan" (the "sing and say") of his poetry. After graduation, Crossley-Holland worked in publishing as a fiction and poetry editor (Macmillan) and editorial director (Victor Gollancz) before teaching in academia. His re-imagining of the Arthurian legends in his trilogy for children are hugely popular and critically acclaimed, receiving the Guardian Children's Fiction Prize amongst others.

Although Crossley-Holland's childhood was in the heart of England in the Chilterns, and he also spent many years teaching in the United States, his poetry has become particularly associated with the Norfolk coast where he often visited his grandparents and has lived for many years. He describes this landscape of saltmarsh, sea and sky as his "imaginative heartland". There is something about its constant state of flux that opens up the heart and mind so that, as he says in 'Dusk, Burnham-Overy-Staithe', "Anything could happen". In this world of possibility, where an island can shimmer like a promise in the distance, history and legend come to life. For example in his evocative sequence, 'Waterslain' (from the old Norfolk word for "flooded"), the hellhound Shuck haunts the marshes whilst local characters like the beachcomber who "scoofs along the tideline scurf,/his oily sack full of consonants" take on an emblematic quality. Crossley-Holland's language is also steeped in Anglo-Saxon influences, particularly evident in the rich patterns of alliteration and assonance which recall the strongly accented rhythms of the period's poetry. Above all, Crossley-Holland's preference for a pared-down vocabulary connects his work to the early origins of the English language: as he says in 'Translation Workshop: Grit and Blood', "I want earth-words/tough roots".

In his reading, Crossley-Holland clearly relishes the sound patterns he creates. His often hushed tones weave their "wordspells" like the falling snow he describes in 'White Noise', transforming the world back into the magical.

His recording was made for The Poetry Archive on 14 March 2005 at The Audio Workshop, London and was produced by Richard Carrington.

Selected bibliography

The Seafarer, Old Stile Press 1998


Moored Man: Poems of North Norfolk, Enitharmon Press...


Eleanor's Advent, by Kevin Crossley-Holland with...


Light Unlocked: Christmas Card Poems (editor with...


Selected Poems, Enitharmon, 2002


Beowulf (translator), London and New York, Oxford...

The New Exeter Book of Riddles (editor with Lawrence...


Poems from East Anglia, Enitharmon, 1997


The Language of Yes, London, Enitharmon, 1996 and...



1969-1971 Gregory Fellow in Poetry, University of Leeds

1976 Poetry Book Society Choice, The Dream-House

Prize website

1986 Poetry Book Society Recommendation, Waterslain

Prize website


Kevin Crossley-Holland

Kevin Crossley-Holland Reading from his poems

1The Rain-Giver

2Dusk, Burnham-Overy-Staithe

3The Island

4The First Island

5The Dream-House

6Grandmother's Footsteps

7An Approach to the Marsh


9from Waterslain

10Orkney Girls - an extract: The Girl at Gurness


12Do You, or I, or Anyone Know?

13Here, at the Tide's Turning

14Solvitur Ambulando

15Across the Water

16The Language of Yes

17Still Life: Eleanor with Field-Flowers


19White Noise

20Light Weather

21Counting Her Steps

22The Fox and the Poet

23Translation Workshop: Grit and Blood


25The Heart-in-Waiting

26Like a Small Sigh


28The Grain of Things

29The Art of Picking Blackberries

A tour of the Archive with Catherine Olver

I think it's defensible to say that there's something about any poem worth the title that asks to be read aloud....

Featured Guided Tours

Books by Kevin Crossley-Holland