Harry Ricketts

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Harry Ricketts (born 1950) is a poet, biographer, editor, anthologist, critic, academic, literary scholar and cricket writer. Best known for his biographies of Rudyard Kipling[1] and of a dozen British First World War poets,[2] his poems, essays and short fiction have also appeared internationally.

Life[edit]

Ricketts was born in London in 1950. His father Jack (John) Ricketts was a career officer in the British Army, serving in World War II and in Malaya and Hong Kong in the 1950s.[3] Ricketts was brought up in London, Malaysia and Hong Kong.[4] He was educated first at a prep school in Kent and later at Wellington College, Berkshire.[5]

From an early age, Ricketts developed a strong interest in cricket and opened the bowling for two years for the Wellington College First XI.[6]

After school, Ricketts studied English at Oxford University completing a BA (1st Class Honours) and an MLitt on Kipling’s short stories (1975).[7] He then taught at the University of Hong Kong (1974-1977) and the University of Leicester (1978-1981) before moving to New Zealand.[8] At Leicester, he knew the poet and critic G. S. Fraser and became friends with the poet Robert Wells.[9]

In 1981, Ricketts took up a lectureship in the English Department at Victoria University of Wellington in New Zealand and for many years has run a popular Modern Poetry course, combining British, American and New Zealand poets.[10] In the 1990s he taught poetry workshops for the Continuing Education Centre at Victoria[11] and more recently has taught non-fiction and fiction writing courses for the IIML (International Institute of Modern Letters).

Outside of academic life, Ricketts kept up his fascination with cricket, playing for one of the Victoria University Cricket Club teams in Wellington until his late fifties.

One of his sons, Will Ricketts, is percussionist in the New Zealand band The Phoenix Foundation.

Ricketts was appointed a Professor in the Department of English, Film, Theatre and Media Studies at Victoria in 2012.

Literary output[edit]

Ricketts began writing poetry at school. At Oxford he was arts editor of the student newspaper Cherwell and wrote for the OSAC magazine, interviewing writers like John Wain.[12] In Hong Kong in the mid-1970s, he wrote short stories and blues songs.

His first book was a collection of realist contemporary short fiction and poems, People like Us, published in Hong Kong in 1977.

During the 1980s, he started to publish academic work, such as an edition of Rudyard Kipling’s ‘lost’ New Zealand story "One Lady at Wairakei" (1983) and a valuable book of interviews with New Zealand poets, Talking about Ourselves (1986). This book introduced Ricketts to the New Zealand poetry scene, and he became friends with the Wellington poets Louis Johnson and Lauris Edmond.[13]

He was also became involved with the New Zealand Poetry Society, edited anthologies for them, was President for a time in the late 1980s, and at Victoria encouraged his students through the student publication Writings and later JAAM magazine in the 1990s, a Victoria Writer’s Club magazine that became international.[14]

A contact made through the Poetry Society, Niel Wright, of Original Books, published Ricketts’s first collection of poetry, Coming under Scrutiny, in 1989, mostly a collection of satirical verses, including a witty clerihew file on New Zealand writers. That same year, David Drummond’s Nagare Press in Palmerston North put out a longer collection of Ricketts’s poems in Coming Here, a reflection on his arriving in New Zealand, including a mixture of poems on parenting, family and friends, history and the landscape, as well as an unrhymed sonnet sequence of found poems based on an early New Zealand grammar and phrasebook.

In 1996, he published a collection of limericks, A Brief History of New Zealand Literature, and a section of poems in the four-poet volume How Things Are, and in 1997 a chapbook, with Chris Orsman’s Pemmican Press, 13 Ways. The following year Mark Pirie’s new company HeadworX published his Nothing to Declare: Selected Writings 1977-1997, a volume that reprinted some of his Hong Kong stories as well as offering a retrospective of his output since the 1970s.

He has since published further poetry collections: Plunge (2001), Your Secret Life (2005) and Just Then (2012), the latter published by Victoria University Press. His poetry has been included in many anthologies of New Zealand poetry. Roger Robinson comments on his poetry that: ‘Ricketts’ best are either deftly satiric “light verse” … or wry commentaries on the perplexities of love, marriage or parenthood.’[15]

Aside from his own literary writing, Ricketts has been a significant anthologist since the 1990s. His work in this field includes How You Doing?: A Selection of New Zealand Comic and Satiric Verse (1998), with Hugh Roberts, and a two-volume series of spiritual verse anthologies, co-edited with Paul Morris and Mike Grimshaw, before stepping out on his own with The Awa Book of New Zealand Sports Writing (2010). His sports anthology was one of the Best 100 Books of 2010 in the New Zealand Listener.[16]

As a biographer, Ricketts has published a well-received biography on Rudyard Kipling, The Unforgiving Minute, published in two editions in London and New York, and has recently produced a biography of a group of First World War poets, Strange Meetings (2010).

The Wall Street Journal reviewer observed of The Unforgiving Minute that: 'of all the Kipling biographies, Harry Ricketts is the most balanced.'[17] The New Yorker reviewer in turn noted that 'Ricketts, a poet, is invaluable in analysing the subtleties and the modernist techniques that went into Kipling's popular, accessible work.'[18]

He has edited a collection of academic essays, Worlds of Katherine Mansfield (1991), an edition of Kipling’s verse, The Long Trail, for Carcanet (UK), as well as writing the non-fiction books, How to Live Elsewhere (through Lloyd Jones’s Four Winds Press) and How to Catch a Cricket Match (2006), the latter organised around the description of a day’s play between the West Indies and New Zealand at the Basin Reserve in Wellington in March 2006.

In 2010, with Paula Green, he co-authored the poetry primer 99 Ways into New Zealand Poetry (2010). He has also contributed scholarly entries to the Oxford Companion to New Zealand Literature, reviewed books for Radio New Zealand National, acted as a theatre critic for the New Zealand Listener (1998-2007), and co-edited the review journal New Zealand Books since the late 1998.[19]

Publications by Harry Ricketts[edit]

A selection of books by Harry Ricketts

Anthologies[edit]

  • How You Doing?: A Selection of New Zealand Comic and Satiric Verse, with Hugh Roberts, Lincoln University Press/Daphne Brasell Associates Press/Whitireia Publishing, Wellington, New Zealand, 1998.
  • Spirit in a Strange Land: A Selection of New Zealand Spiritual Verse, with Mike Grimshaw and Paul Morris, Random House/Godwit, Auckland, New Zealand, 2002. (Winner of the Montana Anthology and reference section 2003.)
  • Spirit Abroad: A Second Selection of New Zealand Spiritual Verse, with Mike Grimshaw and Paul Morris, Random House/Godwit, Auckland, New Zealand, 2004.
  • The Awa Book of New Zealand Sports Writing, Awa Press, Wellington, New Zealand, 2010.
  • Running Writing Robinson (Festschrift for Professor Roger Robinson), with David Carnegie, Paul Millar, David Norton, Victoria University Press, Wellington, New Zealand, 2011.

Biographies[edit]

  • The Unforgiving Minute: A Life of Rudyard Kipling, Pimlico, London, UK, 2000.
  • Rudyard Kipling: A Life, Carroll & Graf, New York, USA, 2001.
  • Strange Meetings: The Poets of the Great War, Chatto & Windus, London, UK, 2010.

Poetry[edit]

  • Coming under Scrutiny, Original Books, Wellington, New Zealand, 1989.
  • Coming Here, Nagare Press, Palmerston North, New Zealand, 1989
  • A Brief History of New Zealand Literature, Fawthorpe Garlick, Wellington, New Zealand, c.1996.
  • How Things Are, with Adrienne Jansen, Meg Campbell and J C Sturm, Whitireia Publishing, Wellington, New Zealand, 1996.
  • 13 Ways, Pemmican Press, Wellington, New Zealand, 1997.
  • Nothing to Declare: Selected Writings 1977-1997, HeadworX Publishers, Wellington, New Zealand, 1998.
  • Plunge, Pemmican Press, Wellington, New Zealand, 2001.
  • Your Secret Life, HeadworX Publishers, Wellington, New Zealand, 2005.
  • Just Then, Victoria University Press, Wellington, New Zealand, 2012.

Fiction[edit]

  • People Like Us: Sketches of Hong Kong, Eurasia Publishing Corp., Hong Kong, 1977.

Non-fiction/criticism[edit]

  • How to Live Elsewhere, Four Winds Press, Wellington, New Zealand, 2004.
  • How to Catch a Cricket Match, Awa Press, Wellington, New Zealand, 2006.
  • 99 Ways into New Zealand Poetry, Random House/Vintage, Auckland, New Zealand, 2010.

Edited[edit]

  • One Lady at Wairakei, Rudyard Kipling, Mallinson Rendel, Wellington, New Zealand, 1983.
  • Talking About Ourselves: Twelve New Zealand Poets in Conversation with Harry Ricketts, Mallinson Rendel, Wellington, New Zealand, 1986.
  • Worlds of Katherine Mansfield, Nagare Press, Palmerston North, New Zealand, 1991; 1992 2nd edition.
  • Under Review: A Selection from New Zealand Books 1991-1996, with Bill Sewell and Lauris Edmond, Lincoln University Press/Daphne Brasell Associates Press, Lincoln, New Zealand, 1997.
  • The Long Trail: Selected Poems, Rudyard Kipling, Carcanet, Manchester, UK, 2004.

References[edit]

  1. ^ Elizabeth Lowry, "The Unforgiving Minute - A life of Rudyard Kipling", Times Literary Supplement, Times, London, (5003), 1999, pp. 3-4
  2. ^ Andrew Motion, Guardian (UK) online, Saturday 13 November 2010 http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2010/nov/13/strange-meetings-poets-war-review" \t "_blank" http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2010/nov/13/strange-meetings-poets-war-review; and Jonathan Beckman, New Statesman (UK) online, 18 November 2010. http://www.newstatesman.com/books/2010/11/war-poets-poetry-sassoon" \t "_blank" http://www.newstatesman.com/books/2010/11/war-poets-poetry-sassoon
  3. ^ Harry Ricketts, "Snapshots of my Father", in Sons of the Fathers, edited by Bill Sewell (North Shore City, N.Z., Tandem Press, 1997).
  4. ^ 4 Roger Robinson, Oxford Companion to New Zealand Literature (Auckland: Oxford University Press, 1998), p. 467.
  5. ^ Harry Ricketts, How to Live Elsewhere (Four Winds Press, Wellington, 2004).
  6. ^ Harry Ricketts, "Snapshots of my Father", in Sons of the Fathers, edited by Bill Sewell (North Shore City, N.Z., Tandem Press, 1997).
  7. ^ Robinson, p. 467.
  8. ^ Harry Ricketts, How to Live Elsewhere (Four Winds Press, Wellington, 2004).
  9. ^ Harry Ricketts, "Three Poems for George Fraser" in Nothing to Declare (HeadworX Publishers, Wellington, 1998).
  10. ^ Robinson, p. 467.
  11. ^ Publisher’s Preface in Nothing to Declare (HeadworX Publishers, Wellington, 1998).
  12. ^ Harry Ricketts, Just Then (Wellington: Victoria University Press, 2012).
  13. ^ Harry Ricketts, "Reading between the Lines" in Nothing to Declare (HeadworX Publishers, Wellington, 1998).
  14. ^ JAAM website
  15. ^ Robinson, p. 467.
  16. ^ 16 "The 100 best books of 2010" in New Zealand Listener, 11 December 2010, Issue 3683.
  17. ^ Additional Information for Harry Ricketts, New Zealand Book Council author profile
  18. ^ Additional Information for Harry Ricketts, New Zealand Book Council author profile
  19. ^ New Zealand Books website

External links[edit]