Philip Gross was born in 1952 in Delabole, North Cornwall, the only child of a wartime refugee from Estonia and the village schoolmaster's daughter. He began writing stories in junior school.
Winner of the National Poetry Competition in 1982, he has since gone on to win the T.S.Eliot Poetry Prize 2009 for The Water Table, the Wales Book of the Year 2010 for I Spy Pinhole Eye and the CLPE Award for Children’s Poetry 2011 for Off Road To Everywhere. His debut collection of poetry for children, Manifold Manor, won the Signal Award in 1989.
He has worked as a writer in schools for thirty years, published ten novels for young people, including The Lastling, and has written scripts, collaborated with artists, musicians and dancers. Since 2004 he has been Professor of Creative Writing at Glamorgan University, where he leads the Masters in Writing programme.
He is known for his all-age poetry readings and workshops, where young people and adults take part on an equal footing.
It has been said of Philip Gross’s work that it is ‘full of places off the edge of maps, places which might or might not be quite real - and of people on the edge of things, not quite sure where or whether they belong’. His gift, in language that is never far from riotous play, is to take these liminal moments and spaces and twist them into something rich and strange, uncovering the mysterious in the familiar. Uncle Unwin (‘Dirge for Unwin’) is a case in point, the unloved and ‘ungenerous’ distant relative proving nothing of the sort in his will which provides for an ‘unknown lover’.
From Rivers (‘Daughter of the Sea’) to Stones (‘Stone Says’) to the comical ‘People-in-cars’ Gross pays attention ‘when no one should have been listening’, recasting and giving voice to what is hidden in plain view. Beneath their playful exterior, Philip Gross’s poems are investigations into how far it is possible to praise the unnoticed moments of everyday living without rendering them as mawkish or sentimental. As he writes in ‘House of Air’:
the postman stares
number sixty six
strange it was was there
this time yesterday
he could swear
This recording of his poems gives the listener an excellent insight into both Philip Gross’s worldview and his creative process. He describes ‘Dirge for Unwin’ as ‘a completely negative poem –or is it?’ Introducing ‘People-in-cars’ he draws attention to the hyphens between each word: ‘People-in-cars is not quite the same thing as People In Cars’. As all good poets must, he looks for and relishes these details, savouring the difference.
This recording was made on December 14th 2011 at the School of Cultural and Creative Industries in Cardiff, South Wales. It was produced by Richard Carrington.