© 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

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These poems come from a special recording for the Poetry Archive:

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Select bibliography

  • The Battle of Maldon and Other Old English Poems (translator), London, Macmillan, 1965 - out of print
  • Running to Paradise: an introductory selection of the poems of W. B. Yeats (editor), Macmillan, 1967 - out of print
  • Beowulf (translator), Macmillan, 1968 and New York, Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1968
  • Storm and Other Old English Riddles (translator), Macmillan, 1970 and Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1970 - out of print
  • The Rain-Giver, London, Andre Deutsch, 1972 - out of print
  • The Dream-House, Andre Deutsch, 1976 - out of print
  • New Poetry 2 (editor with Patricia Beer), London, The Arts Council, 1976 - out of print
  • The Exeter Book Riddles (translator), London, The Folio Society, 1978 and Harmondsworth, Penguin Classics, 1979 - out of print
  • Between My Father and My Son, Minneapolis, Black Willow Press, 1982 - out of print
  • Time's Oriel, London, Hutchinson, 1983 - out of print
  • Waterslain, Hutchinson, 1986 - out of print
  • The Oxford Book of Travel Verse, London and New York, Oxford University Press, 1986 - out of print
  • Beowulf (translator) - the Poetry of Legend series, Woodbridge, The Boydell Press with Phoebe Phillips Editions, 1987
  • The Painting-Room, Hutchinson, 1988 - out of print
  • The Old English Elegies (translator), The Folio Society, 1988 - out of print
  • East Anglian Poems, Stoke by Nayland, Jardine Press, 1989 - out of print
  • Peter Grimes: the Poor of the Borough (editor), The Folio Society, 1990 - out of print
  • New and Selected Poems 1965-1990, Hutchinson, 1991 - out of print
  • Eleanor's Advent, by Kevin Crossley-Holland with illustrations by Alyson MacNeill. Old Stile Press, 1992
  • The Language of Yes, London, Enitharmon, 1996 and Pennsylvania, Dufour, 1996
  • Poems from East Anglia, Enitharmon, 1997
  • The Seafarer, Old Stile Press 1998
  • The New Exeter Book of Riddles (editor with Lawrence Sail), Enitharmon, 1999
  • Beowulf (translator), London and New York, Oxford University Press, 1999
  • Selected Poems, Enitharmon, 2002
  • The Anglo-Saxon World (editor and part translator), Cambridge, Boydell & Brewer, 1982 (new ed. 2002)
  • Light Unlocked: Christmas Card Poems (editor with Lawrence Sail), Enitharmon, 2005
  • Kevin Crossley-Holland Reading from his poems, The Poetry Archive, 2005
  • Moored Man: Poems of North Norfolk, Enitharmon Press 2006
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.


1969-1971 Gregory Fellow in Poetry, University of Leeds

1976 Poetry Book Society Choice, The Dream-House

1986 Poetry Book Society Recommendation, Waterslain

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