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

Buy

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

Buy

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

Buy

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

Buy

Selected Poems, Enitharmon, 2002

Buy

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

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

Buy

Poems from East Anglia, Enitharmon, 1997

Buy

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

Buy

Prizes

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

Recordings

Kevin Crossley-Holland

Kevin Crossley-Holland Reading from his poems

1The Rain-Giver

£0.89

2Dusk, Burnham-Overy-Staithe

£0.89

3The Island

£0.89

4The First Island

£0.89

5The Dream-House

£0.89

6Grandmother's Footsteps

£0.89

7An Approach to the Marsh

£0.89

8Mosquito

£0.89

9from Waterslain

£0.89

10Orkney Girls - an extract: The Girl at Gurness

£0.89

11Sounds

£0.89

12Do You, or I, or Anyone Know?

£0.89

13Here, at the Tide's Turning

£0.89

14Solvitur Ambulando

£0.89

15Across the Water

£0.89

16The Language of Yes

£0.89

17Still Life: Eleanor with Field-Flowers

£0.89

18Leaf-Girl

£0.89

19White Noise

£0.89

20Light Weather

£0.89

21Counting Her Steps

£0.89

22The Fox and the Poet

£0.89

23Translation Workshop: Grit and Blood

£0.89

24Idling

£0.89

25The Heart-in-Waiting

£0.89

27Limoges

£0.89

28The Grain of Things

£0.89

29The Art of Picking Blackberries

£0.89

26Like a Small Sigh

£0.89

A tour of the Archive with Robert Cole

Poetry springs to life in recordings such as those curated in the Archive. Poems have a perfectly respectable...

Featured Guided Tours


Books by Kevin Crossley Holland