|Ruth Sophia Padel|
|Born||8 May 1946
Wimpole Street, London
Ruth Sophia Padel FRSL FZS (// pə-DEL) (born 8 May 1946) is a British poet, a non-fiction author known also for her poetry criticism, nature writing and connections with science, music and conservation and more recently a novelist. She broadcasts for BBC Radio 3 and 4, especially on poetry, literature, music and wildlife  She is on the Board of the Zoological Society of London and is active in promoting its global conservation through literary programmes.
- 1 Biography
- 2 Poetry
- 3 Non-fiction
- 4 Fiction
- 5 Radio and music
- 6 Books
- 7 Awards, residencies, and appointments
- 8 References
- 9 External links
Padel is daughter of psychoanalyst John Hunter Padel and Hilda, daughter of Sir (James) Alan Noel Barlow 2nd Baronet and Nora Barlow, née Darwin, granddaughter of Charles Darwin, through whom Padel is Darwin's great-great-grandchild. Her brother is historian Oliver Padel; cousins include prison reformer Una Padel, sculptor Phyllida Barlow and biographer Randal Keynes, her uncle is Horace Barlow. Padel was born in Wimpole Street where her great-grandfather Sir Thomas Barlow practised medicine. She attended North London Collegiate School, studied classics at Lady Margaret Hall Oxford where she sang in Schola Cantorum of Oxford, wrote a PhD on Greek poetry, and was first Bowra Research Fellow at Wadham College Oxford which altered its Statutes for her to accommodate female Fellows. She was thus among the first women to become Fellows of formerly all-male Oxford colleges. She taught Greek at Oxford and Birkbeck, University of London, taught opera in the Modern Greek Department at Princeton University, has lived extensively in Greece, and in Paris where she sang in the Choir of Église Saint-Eustache, Paris. Her publishing career began in 1985, while she was teaching Greek at Birkbeck College, with a poetry pamphlet. Later she left academe to support herself by reviewing and publish her first collection, 1990. She was married to philosopher Myles Burnyeat.
Padel has published eight collections. Four in the 1990s, when she won the 1996 UK National Poetry Competition, and four between 2002 and 2012: most recently The Mara Crossing whose form is said to revivify the prosimetrum, a mediaeval mix of poetry and prose, which is addresses animal and human migration.
Padel's main themes include science, nature, painting, music, history, wildlife and human relations. Her stylistic hallmarks are said to be rich imagery, technical skill and musicality; wit, passion and lyrical intelligence, internal rhyme, half-rhyme, enjambment and unusual energy within and against the line, 'As if Wallace Stevens had hijacked Sylvia Plath with a dash of punk Sappho thrown in." Quoted influences include Gerard Manley Hopkins and Greek choral lyric.
From 1998 to 2004, date of her last conventional collection The Soho Leopard, Padel's collections reflect simultaneously written non-fiction: music (for I’m a Man - Sex, Gods and Rock ‘n’ Roll); technical attention to the poetic line (as in 52 Ways of Looking At A Poem, exemplified in poems such as 'Icicles Round a Tree in Dumfrieshire' her National Poetry Competition winner); and wildlife (as in Tigers in Red Weather). Her subsequent collections Darwin - A Life in Poems and The Mara Crossing include prose, biology and history. More recent poems reflect an interest in the Middle East: on Pieter Bruegel’s "Triumph of Death", the 2002 Siege of the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem, "Learning to Make an Oud in Nazareth", which she has stated came from hearing Le Trio Joubran; in addition to a conversation with Palestinian poet Mourid Barghouti, and Introduction to the posthumous diary and poems of Mahmoud Darwish.
Padel's latest book is said to be a sweeping, unconventional, experimental volume of mixed poetry and prose about migration which calls for compassion. Migrants, cellular, animal or human, migrate to survive: but human migrations are inextricably mixed with trade, invasion, conquest and empire."Home is where you start from, but where is a swallow's real home? And what does "native" mean if the English Oak is an immigrant from Spain?"
Poetry, science, Darwin
Engaged in relating poetry and science, Padel has written on cell migration for The Scientist, was a judge for the 2012 Wellcome Trust Science Book Prize  and the 2005 Aventis Science Prize for the Royal Society has written poems on genetics and zoology, and her book on migration is said to connect micro-level cell migration with macro-level social migration. An interest in combining poetry, science and religion is reflected in poems on genetics, debates on poetry and prayer with Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury lectures at the Royal College of Surgeons and a residency at the Environment Institute, University College London. Her poems on Charles Darwin employ Darwin's writings, letters and journals to address his life, family and science. They were received as innovative work by scientists and the literary community as a "new species" of biography in verse, whose emotional centre is the Darwins' marriage, shaken by divergent religious belief and the death of a daughter. The book's staging by the Mephisto Stage Company, Ireland, was described as intensifying the musicality of the verse and dramatic interplay between the scientific and the spiritual that permeates this collection. Since Padel is a Darwin descendant, the book was also a family memoir. Her preface illuminates the role of Padel’s grandmother, Nora Barlow, who in editing Darwin's Autobiography restored a passage in which Darwin said he did not see how anyone could wish the doctrine of hell to be true; this had been deleted by the first editor, Darwin's son Francis, at his mother's request. Padel's poems connected Darwin's loss of his mother as a child with his passion for collecting; and linked his early scientific writing with his taxidermy teacher in Edinburgh John Edmonstone, a freed slave from Guiana.
Criticism and teaching
Padel is a Teaching Fellow in Poetry at Kings College London. From 1998 to 2001 she pioneered The Sunday Poem, an influential weekly column in London's Independent on Sunday whose close readings of contemporary poems she collected and developed in her popular books 52 Ways of Looking at a Poem and The Poem and the Journey. As Chair of the UK Poetry Society 2004-2007, she presided over the establishment of poetry 'Stanzas' across the UK. In 2010 she chaired Judges for the Forward Poetry Prize, in 2011 delivered the Housman Lecture at the Hay Festival on "The Name and Nature of Poetry." and began Radio 4's Poetry Workshop: a series of programmes on writing poetry in which she leads workshops with poetry groups across the UK. Her books on reading contemporary poetry and 1998-2001 newspaper column from which these volumes grew influenced a decade of writing about poetry in the UK, followed by her Newcastle University 'Bloodaxe' Lectures on poetry's use of silence, Silent Letters of the Alphabet. Her criticism is reported to employ close analysis, knowledge of Greek poetics, myth, metaphor, tone and rhyme; she is said to read with aural acuity, generosity and no polemic; her precision "does not obscure but builds the big picture", addressing the general reader but with "utmost attention to the page".
She has written introductions to the works of Palestinian poets Mahmoud Darwish, Mourid Barghouti and Ramsey Nasr, and British poets Walter Ralegh, Tennyson and Gerard Manley Hopkins. At the opening festival of the T S Eliot Festival at Little Gidding in 2006, 70 years after Eliot's visit there, Padel described the contrast between Eliot's memories of Little Gidding and his experience of The Blitz whilst writing the poem. "It reminded him there was still a place that had a sense of truth." She returned to this moment in her Foreword to the posthumous volume of Mahmoud Darwish, comparing his sense of the poet's role in a time of violence to that of Seamus Heaney in Northern Ireland during the Troubles and of Eliot during the London blitz.
Scholarship and Greek myth
Padel's non-fiction began with books for Princeton University Press on ancient Greece. In and Out of the Mind: Greek Images of the Tragic Self explores the way Greek ideas of inwardness shaped European notions of the self. She used anthropology and psychoanalysis to support her thesis that male Greek culture spoke of the mind as mainly "female" and receptive rather than "male" and active. Whom Gods Destroy: Elements of Madness in Greek and Other Tragedy investigates madness in tragedy from the Greeks to Shakespeare and the moderns, parsing different views of madness in different societies. She presented the tragic hero as embodiment of the human mind, 'which lives catastrophe, suffers damage and endures.'
Her subsequent work I'm A Man: Sex, Gods and Rock 'n' Roll(2000) argued that rock music began as a ‘wishing well of masculinity,' which drew on mythic connections between male sexuality, aggression, anxiety, misogyny and violence which derived from Ancient Greece. Padel has stated that she intended this to focus on women's voices but then felt she ought first to pick apart the maleness of rock music. The book had a mixed reception from male reviewers. Women reviewers described it as original, beautifully expressed, vivid, amusing and convincing; Rock writers Charles Shaar Murray and Casper Llewellyn Smith described it as 'provocative and fascinating' and her analysis of rock's misogyny 'dazzling.'
Nature writing: wildlife and conservation
Padel is a Member of the Council of the Zoological Society of London and an Ambassador for the UK's New Networks for Nature, an alliance of practitioners in different fields who celebrate and draw creative inspiration from Britain's nature and wildlife. Her account of wild tiger conservation, drawing on her scientific background and Darwinian descent, was valued internationally for its insights on conservation, for its travel writing. with introductions to little-known parts of the world such as Sumatra, Bhutan and Ussuriland, its ear for dialogue, the quality of nature writing, and portrait of both the tiger and the field-zoologist.
Padel's novel Where the Serpent Lives, focussing on wildlife crime in India and the UK, was noted for vivid nature writing, innovative use of science and an animal's eye viewpoint. In India and UK, reviewers commented on the imaginative connections between nature, poetry and science. "She has done for the forests of Karnataka and Bengal what Amitav Ghosh did for the Sundarbans in The Hungry Tide."
Radio and music
Padel's radio work ranges from music through literature and poetry to nature and the environment. As a lifelong choral singer, in Radio 3's programme "The Choir" she asked "What is the voice of a choir? whose is it?" In "Wild Things", a series of radio essays, she explored the myths and ecology of five British wild creatures. She has broadcast a series of BBC Radio 3 opera interval talks and has stated that if she could choose any other career it would be that of opera director. She has written on opera and a sixteenth-century madrigal for the London Review of Books, and in a Radio 3 essay series, Writers as Musicians, she spoke about playing viola, an instrument whose "inner voice" illustrates her Newcastle Poetry Lectures Silent Letters of the Alphabet,. For BBC Radio 4 she has written and presented features on writers, scientists and composers including Hans Christian Andersen, Edward Elgar, Charles Darwin and W.S. Gilbert. As guest on Desert Island Discs., chosen works included Beethoven String Quartet Opus 132, Verdi's Requiem, "Down by the Salley Gardens" sung by Kathleen Ferrier, "I’m Ready for You" sung by Muddy Waters, a Cretan folksong and "The Boys from Piraeus", from the film Never on Sunday. Her luxury was a herd of deer.
- Alibi 1985
- Summer Snow 1990
- Angel 1993
- Fusewire 1996
- Rembrandt Would Have Loved You 1998
- Voodoo Shop 2002
- Soho Leopard 2004
- Darwin - A Life in Poems 2009
- The Mara Crossing 2012
Criticism and editing
- 52 Ways of Looking at a Poem: How Reading Modern Poetry Can Change Your Life 2002
- The Poem and the Journey 2006
- Silent Letters of the Alphabet 2010
- Walter Ralegh, Selected Poems 2010
- Alfred Lord Tennyson (Folio Society, Introduction and Notes) 2007
- Gerard Manley Hopkins (Folio Society, Introduction) 2011
- In and Out of the Mind: Greek Images of the Tragic Self 1992
- Whom Gods Destroy: Elements of Greek and Tragic Madness 1995
- I'm a Man: Sex, Gods and Rock 'n' Roll 2000
- Tigers in Red Weather 2005
- Where the Serpent Lives 2010
Awards, residencies, and appointments
Padel was Poet in Residence for the Henry Wood Promenade Concerts in 2002 and opened the 2009 Edinburgh International Book Festival with a reading of 'Darwin - A Life in Poems.' The following year at the same festival she curated and presented a series of literary events around “Writing the Family”. She has been Writer in Residence at Christ's College, Cambridge and as first Writer in Residence at Somerset House she inaugurated the Writers' Talks at the Courtauld Institute of Art. In March 2009 she read and discussed Darwin at the University of Havana, at the Poetry Society of America in Lillian Vernon House, New York and at the New York Botanical Garden. Since 2005 she has taught and lectured on conservation, nature writing and the environment and was Resident Poet in the Environment Institute, University College London, 2010–2011. She has read and lectured on nature in Mumbai, at the Bombay Natural History Society and Prithvi Theatre. She has been Judge for the 1996 T S Eliot Poetry Prize, the 2005 Royal Society Aventis Prize for Science Books, has twice been Judge for the National Poetry Competition (1999, 2009), chaired the Judges for the 2010 Forward Poetry Prize, was on the Final Judging Panel for 2010 Costa Book Awards and Judge for the 2012 Wellcome Trust Science Book Prize.
- 1992 Wingate Scholarship 
- 1994 Arts Council Writers’ Award for poetry collection Fusewire
- 1996 First Prize, UK National Poetry Competition
- 1996 First Prize, UK National Poetry Competition
- 1998 Rembrandt Would Have Loved You Poetry Book Society Choice, shortlisted for T S Eliot Prize
- 1998 Appointed Fellow of The Royal Society of Literature
- 2000 Cholmondeley Award from Society of Authors
- 2002 Poetry Residency at Henry Wood Promenade Concerts
- 2002 Voodoo Shop Poetry Book Society Recommendation, short-listed for T. S. Eliot Prize and Whitbread Poetry Award
- 2003 Research Award from Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation
- 2004 The Soho Leopard Poetry Book Society Choice, short-listed for the T. S. Eliot Prize
- 2005 Tigers in Red Weather shortlisted in USA for Kiriyama Prize and in UK for Dolman Best Travel Book Award.
- 2006 Arts Council of England Individual Writer’s Bursary
- 2008 First Writer in Residence at Somerset House, London
- 2009 Leverhulme Artist in Residence Award at Christ's College, Cambridge
- 2009 Elected Professor of Poetry at Oxford University
- 2009 British Council Darwin Now Award
- 2009 Darwin - A Life in Poems shortlisted for Costa Book Awards for poetry
- 2010-2011 Writer in Residence at the Environment Institute, University College London
- 2010 Chair of Forward Poetry Prize
- 2011 Inaugurated 'Poetry Workshop' on BBC Radio 4
- 2012 The Mara Crossing nominated for London Poetry Awards and shortlisted for Ted Hughes Prize
Oxford Professor of Poetry
Padel is the first woman to have been elected Professor of Poetry at Oxford University. In 2009 she was elected on 297 votes. (Predecessors James Fenton in 1994 and Christopher Ricks in 2004 were elected on 228 and 214 votes; a new online voting system now allows a wider electorate.) Her election, however, took place in a media storm when copies of pages from a University of Illinois publication giving details of sexual harassment charges laid at Boston University and Harvard University against her rival Derek Walcott were sent anonymously to Oxford academics and Walcott withdrew his candidacy.His candidature had been controversial at Oxford. Some counselled against on grounds of his US university record, others deemed his record irrelevant to a post not requiring student contact. Padel criticized the anonymous missives, said "I wish he had not pulled out" and denied connection with them, but the press widely alleged her involvement and after her election published an email in which, asked for information on pre-election opinion at Oxford, Padel had mentioned voters' unease at silence about Walcott's record. There was no evidence that anything Padel did done led to Walcott's withdrawal but Padel resigned, saying she did not want to do the job under suspicion.
American commentators attributed public treatment of Padel to a gender war. Some British commentators explained it by misogyny; The Observer attributed it to ‘toxicity of the metropolitan media’. The story. it was claimed, "had everything, from sex claims to allegations of character assassination.". It allowed the press "simultaneously to pursue allegations in Walcott's past, and criticize Padel for having mentioned these allegations as a source of voters' disquiet". Asked if she would encourage Walcott to stand again, Padel replied, "Yes, if he wants. I think he'd do good lectures."
Letters to British newspapers criticized media handling of the affair. Letters to The Guardian complained of unfair denigration of Padel, "justly held in high regard for her poetry and teaching." A letter to The Times Literary Supplement complained of unfair media pursuit of Walcott's past. A letter to The Times claimed that Oxford had "missed out for the worst of reasons on an inspirational teacher: Walcott removed the decision from the electorate by his own choice; Padel should not have been made to pay for his decision to confront neither his accusers nor his past." On Newsnight Review, poet Simon Armitage and poetry promoter Josephine Hart expressed regret about her resignation. "Ruth's a good person," Simon Armitage said. "I don't think she should have resigned, she would have been good." Padel subsequently supported Geoffrey Hill in the following election in which Hill was appointed.
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- ::::: Prithvi Theatre :::::
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