Past Poets 2020

Anne Bannerman (1765–1829) was a Scottish poet known for her gothic ballads and the striking and bold tone of her sonnets and odes. Her early work, while published under pseudonyms, was read and admired by many in the Edinburgh literary circle. While her poetry collections, Poems and Tales of Superstition and Chivalry, were well received, it was her ballads that were especially praised by fellow poets and critics. Though Bannerman’s work was not commercially successful in her lifetime, the energy of her poems alongside their focus on the femme fatale and emphasis on the obscure has secured her place among Romantic poets and scholars.

Rǫgnvaldr Kali Kolsson, Earl of Orkney, (1103–1158) was a striking Norwegian poet, explorer, leader, and saint whose work has survived in Icelandic traditions and translations. He composed his poetry while journeying, including on his pilgrimage to Jerusalem, described eventually in the Orkneyinga Saga. Many of his surviving poems focused not on his landings themselves, but on the feasting, fighting, and travel companions—not to discount the many love poems he wrote for women he met along the way. Absorbed into his poetry was the diversity of places and cultures he experienced in his travels, and his style demonstrates a skilful skaldic poetry and what would become the markings of the Viking diaspora.

Stein Mehren (1935–2017) was a Norwegian poet, essayist, and playwright. A prolific writer, he published more than fifty books in his lifetime. His work is often acknowledged for its ability both to focus on the value of the minute, focusing on a single drop of water on the desert floor, and to encompass movements of massive landscapes. He received the Norwegian Critics Prize for Literature in 1963, the Swedish Academy’s Dobloug Prize in 1971, and the Fritt Ord Award in 1979, among many others. His deeply immersive and sensory driven poems have made him a favourite among audiences and fellow poets.

Ann Radcliffe (1764–1823) was an English poet, novelist and pioneer of gothic fiction. First and foremost a novelist, she often incorporated her poems into the novels she wrote—distinguishing herself for her ability to infuse terror with an aura of romantic sensibility. While her first publications were done anonymously, she found recognition and success with her third novel, The Romance of the Forest. Later in life, Ann focused on her poetry, and though she found little initial commercial success for them, Sir Walter Scott called her the ‘first poetess of romantic fiction’. Since her death she has been celebrated for her distinctive style and the influence of her work in the era of the Romantic poets.

Little is known about Jessie Stewart. Her poems were admired by the influential Edinburgh-based literary scholar Robert Anderson (1749-1830) and appeared in the Poetical Register between 1802 and 1806, both under her own name and as ‘Adeline’.

Dorothy Wordsworth (1771–1855) was a fascinating British author, poet and diarist known for her lyrical descriptions of nature. Despite the power of her writing she was only published posthumously, writing in a journal, ‘I should detest the idea of setting myself up as an author.’ She lived with her brother, William Wordsworth, who himself borrowed freely from her descriptions of nature in his own work. An avid naturalist, her work beautifully captured the world she saw on her frequent wilderness walks. Her Grasmere Journal, published in 1897, detailed her life in the Lake District, her connection to popular literary figures of the nineteenth century, and the true role of her writing in her brother’s literary success.