About Robert Crawford

In his poem ‘Alba Einstein’ Robert Crawford re-imagines the famous scientist as a Scot (‘He’d always worn brogues. / Ate bannocks in exile’), a deceptively lighthearted take on one of the poet’s most enduring themes: the complexities of Scottish identity. Professor of Modern Scottish Literature and Bishop Wardlaw Professor of Poetry at the University of St Andrews, Crawford has published seven poetry collections (not counting his 2005 Selected), as well as number of prose works, most recently a biography of Robert Burns, The Bard, which won the Saltire Scottish Book of the Year Award in 2009, and Bannockburns: Scottish Independence and Literary Imagination. He writes poems in English and Scots, bringing unfamiliar words in both languages energetically to life with his precise, insistent reading style.

Crawford was born in Bellshill, Lanarkshire, in 1959, and began to publish poems while at school in Glasgow. He went on to study English at Glasgow University, where Edwin Morgan was one of his tutors. After postgraduate work at Balliol College on T. S. Eliot, and a research fellowship at St Hugh’s College in Oxford, he won an Eric Gregory Award in 1988 and was one of the ‘New Generation’ poets in 1994, a group which included Carol Ann Duffy, Don Paterson, John Burnside and many other significant poets.

Reviewing Crawford’s last collection, the T. S. Eliot Prize-shortlisted Full Volume, Sean O’Brien speculated that ‘because Scotland's philosophical and religious traditions retain a degree of everyday currency, its poetry is still equipped with a didactic faculty which English poets have long set aside. This manifests itself as a sense of intelligent urgency rather than law-giving, but…he or she still means you to take notice.’ There is indeed a compelling element of the oracular to Crawford’s work, particularly in pieces such as ‘Clan Donald’s Call to Battle at Harlow’, a version of a Gaelic poem in which he adopts the rallying voice of a battle rouser, or the short poem ‘Rounding’ in which a geological perspective emphasises the cyclical quality of the natural world. But to over-emphasise this aspect would be to neglect the rich seam of more personal meditations, such as those on marriage, fatherhood and the poet’s childhood. In ‘Anne of Green Gables’, for example, Crawford tenderly explores the subtle workings of marriage and the private spaces that might be retained within it: ‘At first / I was jealous when you sat not speaking, / Then put the books away on your own shelf.//…At first / I was jealous. Not now.’

Robert Crawford’s recording was made at ID Audio, London on 15 October 2013. The producer was John Green.

 

The Bard: Robert Burns, A Biography (Pimlico, 2010)

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Bannockburns: Scottish Independence and Literary...

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with W. H. Herbert: Sharawaggi: Poems in Scots (...

Testament (Jonathan Cape, 2014)

Full Volume (Jonathan Cape, 2008)

Robert Crawford: Selected Poems (ebook edition) (...

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The Tip of My Tongue (Jonathan Cape, 2003)

Spirit Machines (Jonathan Cape, 1999)

Masculinity (Kindle edition) (Jonathan Cape, 2011)

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Prizes

T.S. Eliot Prize (shortlist) 2008 for Full Volume

Prize website

Saltire Society's Scottish Book of the Year 2009 for The Bard: Robert Burns: A Biography

Prize website

Saltire Society's Scottish Research Book of the Year 2007 for Scotland’s Books: The Penguin History of Scottish Literature

Prize website

Scottish Arts Council Book Award 1999 for Spirit Machines

Scottish Arts Council Book Award 1993 for Identifying Poets

Eric Gregory Award 1988

Prize website

Recordings

Robert Crawford

Robert Crawford Downloads

1Advice

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2Ah Waant

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3Alba Einstein

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4Anne of Green Gables

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5Camera Obscura

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6Chaps

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7Clan Donald's Call to Battle at Harlaw

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8Credo

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9Daveheart

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10Declaration

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11Fiat Lux

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12God Save The King

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13Guide

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14Levity

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15Mons Meg

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16Nightingale Floor

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17Opera

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18Persian

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19Reveille

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20Rounding

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21Scotch Broth

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22Scotland

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23Spartan War Dead, Thermopylae

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24St Andrews

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25The Criticism

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26Total

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27Us

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28Writer

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