In this series, a contemporary poet selects and introduces a poet of the past. By their choice of poems and by the personal and critical reactions they express in their prefaces, the editors offer insights into their own work as well as providing an accessible and passionate introduction to the most important poets in our literature.
William Barnes was born in 1801 near Sturminster Newton in Dorset, of a farming family. He learned Greek, Latin and music, taught himself wood engraving, and in 1823 became a schoolmaster in Mere. He was deply interested in grammar and language, and waged a lifelong campaign to rid English of classical and foreign influences. Among his best-known books of poetry are Poems of Rural Life in the Dorset Dialect (1844) and Homely Rhymes (1859. His work has often been praised for its evocations of Dorset life, landscape and customs; he also wrote political poems of great power and was a master elegist. Barnes died in 1886.
Andrew Motion was Poet Laureate from 1999 to 2009; he is Professor of Creative Writing at Royal Holloway College, University of London, and co-founder of the online Poetry Archive. He has received numerous awards for his poetry, and has published four celebrated biographies. His group study The Lamberts won the Somerset Maugham Award and his authorised life of Philip Larkin won the Whitbread Prize for Biography. Andrew Motion's novella The Invention of Dr Cake (2003) was described as 'amazingly clever' by the Irish Times and praised for 'brilliant and almost hallucinatory vividness' by the Sunday Telegraph. His memoir, In the Blood (2006), was described as 'the most moving and exquisitely written account of childhood loss I have ever read' in the Independent on Sunday. His most recent collection of poems is The Customs House (2012). Andrew Motion was knighted for his services to poetry in 2009. In 2014 he received the Wilfred Owen Poetry Award.