Life and career
Draycott was born in London in 1954 and studied at King's College London and the University of Bristol. Her pamphlet No Theatre (Smith/Doorstop) was shortlisted for the Forward Prize for Best First Collection 1997, and her first full collection Prince Rupert's Drop (1999), was shortlisted for the Forward Prize for Best Collection. In 2002, she was the winner of the Keats-Shelley Prize for Poetry and in 2004 she was nominated as one of the Poetry Book Society's 'Next Generation' poets. Her 2009 collection Over (Carcanet Press) was nominated for the T S Eliot Prize. Her other books include Christina the Astonishing (with Lesley Saunders and Peter Hay, 1998) and Tideway (illustrated by Peter Hay, 2002), both from Two Rivers Press. She was previously poet in residence at Henley's River and Rowing museum. She lectures in creative writing at Oxford University and the University of Lancaster, and has been a mentor on the Crossing Borders  creative writing initiative, which was set up by the British Council and Lancaster University. Her 2011 translation of the 14th century elegy Pearl - in which she aims at a fluid and echoing character which loosens some of the original end-stopped pulse - was a winner in the Stephen Spender Prize for translation. In 2013 she was Writer-in-Residence hosted by the Dutch Foundation for Literature in Amsterdam, researching Martinus Nijhoff's modernist narrative Awater. She was a Royal Literary Fund Lector 2014-16. Draycott has recorded a number of her poems for The Poetry Archive and is one of the poets featured in the national Poetry By Heart anthology. Her 2016 collection The Occupant (Carcanet Press) was a Poetry Book Society Recommendation. An anthology of new translations of the 20th century artist and poet Henri Michaux Storms Under the Skin is published in 2017 Two Rivers Press.
David Morley in The Guardian commented:
Poetry persuades by the precision of its language, and this necessary exactness is carefully and coldly won over years of drafting and redrafting. Jane Draycott's first collection, Prince Rupert's Drop, was well received and rightly so. Her work had a patient intelligence of practice, and concision of address, not only in every poem in that book but in the very philosophy of perception informing her poetics.
In the same newspaper, Sean O'Brien wrote:
Those who enjoyed Jane Draycott's "Tideway" poems, deriving from her work with the Thames watermen in her previous book, The Night Tree (2004), will know how well she evokes the otherness of the underwater river-world, its shifts, silences, doorways and vaulted depths, and it is in this sense that the word "quiet" should be applied to the chords and modulations of Draycott's eerie and beautiful poems. She listens, and therefore so do we.
Kenneth Clarke's review of Pearl (Miglior Acque Blogspot, 23 May 2011):
...wonderful translation by the English poet Jane Draycott. Introduced by the medievalist and poet Bernard O’Donoghue, the short poem is rendered with a great simplicity and power... The first stanza (ll. 1-12; f. 39r in the manuscript) amply demonstrates Jane Draycott’s skill:
- Perle plesaunte, to prynces paye
- To clanly clos in golde so clere:
- Oute of oryent, I hardyly saye,
- Ne proued I neuer her precios pere.
- So rounde, so reken in vche araye,
- So smal, so smoþe her sydez were;
- Queresoeuer I jugged gemmez gaye
- I sette hyr sengeley in synglure.
- Allas! I leste hyr in on erbere;
- Þurȝ gresse to grounde hit fro me yot.
- I dewyne, fordolked of luf-daungere
- Of þat pryuy perle withouten spot.
Look at the boldness of that opening line, the sense of certainty and incomprehension, the way she captures the emphasis of this first stanza, its almost hypnotic beat of statement after statement. I love the way it seems to rise and fall. I think that that ‘I dewyne, fordolked of luf-daungere’ translated as ‘I stand bereft, struck to the heart with love and loss’ is just magnificent, where the enjambment renders the line more powerful (as O’Donoghue rightly sees in his introduction, p. 8). Great poems can make for great translations, other great poems really. Read this great translation because it is also a great poem.
- One thing I know for certain: that she
- was peerless, pearl who would have added
- light to any prince’s life
- however bright with gold. None
- could touch the way she shone
- in any light, so smooth, so small –
- she was a jewel above all others.
- So pity me the day I lost her
- in this garden where she fell
- beneath the grass into the earth.
- I stand bereft, struck to the heart
- with love and loss. My spotless pearl.
Boyd Tonkin's review of the same poem in The Independent:
Part of the same 14th century manuscript as Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, also written in its dialect, Pearl is an intricately wrought 1200-line elegiac poem. A father grieves for his small daughter, dead before her second birthday. Anyone who has ever read this wrenchingly beautiful vision of love, and bereavement, and the consolation of faith, knows that historians lie when they say parents in times of high infant mortality didn't care very much for the little ones they lost. Jane Draycott's fresh version of this anonymous masterpiece is the best available. The glamour, even glitz, of its view of paradise across the river of death dazzles as never before in modern English. And the sadness of the father; 'exiled from the country/ of eternity', just breaks the heart.
- 1997 Forward Poetry Prize for Best First Collection - Shortlist (No Theatre)
- 1998 BBC Radio 3 Poem For Radio - with Elizabeth James (Winner)
- 1999 Forward Poetry Prize for Best Collection - Shortlist (Prince Rupert's Drop)
- 2002 Forward Poetry Prize for Best Single Poem - Shortlist (Uses for the Thames)
- 2002 Keats Shelley Prize (The Night Tree)
- 2004 Next Generation poet (Poetry Book Society)
- 2009 Hawthornden International Fellowship
- 2009 T S Eliot Prize - Shortlist (Over)
- 2011 Stephen Spender Prize for Pearl
- 2012 National Poetry Competition - Second Prizewinner (Italy to Lord)
- 2014 International Hippocrates Prize for Poetry and Medicine (The Return)
- No Theatre. Smith/Doorstop Books. 1997. ISBN 978-1-869961-88-6.
- Jane Draycott & Lesley Saunders (1998). Christina the Astonishing. Illustrator Peter Hay. Two Rivers Press. ISBN 978-1-901677-07-2.
- Prince Rupert's Drop (Carcanet Press, 1999)
- Tideway. Illustrator Peter Hay. Two Rivers Press. 2002. ISBN 978-1-901677-33-1.
- The Night Tree (Carcanet Press, 2004)
- Over (Carcanet Press, 2009)
- Pearl (Carcanet Press, 2011)
- The Occupant (Carcanet Press, 2016)
- Storms Under the Skin (Two Rivers Press, 2017)
- Profile at Official website
- Prince Rupert's Drop
- Crossing Borders
- Lancaster profile
- The Poetry Archive
- Poetry By Heart
- David Morley (25 September 2004). "Precisely perfect". The Guardian.
- Sean O'Brien (25 April 2009). "Immerse yourself". The Guardian.
- Kenneth Clarke (23 May 2011). "Review of Jane Draycott's translation of Pearl". Miglior Acque Blogspot.
- Boyd Tonkin (29 July 2011). "Review of Pearl". The Independent.
- Author's Website
- Salt profile and poems
- "Precisely perfect". Review of The Night Tree in The Guardian Saturday 25 September 2004
- "Jane Draycott reviews How to Write a Poem by John Redmond". Tower Poetry. Archived from the original on 5 July 2011.
- Pearl (extract) in Modern Poetry in Translation
- 'Italy to Lord' - Carol Rumens Poem of the Week in The Guardian 2 January 2017