More Poetry Masters

Yorkshire is blessed with so many esteemed poets that a part two to our previous article was required to cover more of the best thought-provoking verse writers in any depth. Here are short biographies of the collections and poems which are often included in anthologies of Yorkshire poetry.

Tony Harrison

Born in Leeds, Tony reached peak fame in the mid-eighties when his Selected Poems and ‘V’ were published. Some of his poetry and theatre productions rile against class divide in society as well as in the arts, and has been described by critics as ‘angry’ yet unmistakably powerful. Tony Harrison has stayed true to his roots in a literary career spanning over 50 years.

Harrison’s headline piece entitled ‘V’ was a lengthy poem heavy in subject-matter, which presented the divisions at work in society in a new light. It was written as a backlash against Margaret Thatcher’s elitist regime of the time, as well as the emerging Skinhead culture that often involved hooliganism and racism. By the time the poem aired as a controversial Channel 4 documentary, Tony Harrison was a household name.

Ian MacMillan

Still living in South Yorkshire, The Guardian have hailed Ian McMillan ‘a force of nature’ due to his sheer work rate when it comes to writing and reading his poetry. He writes a variety of poems for children and adults, but mainly comedic poems. MacMillan has kept his Barnsley accent and occasionally draws on inspiration from the Yorkshire dialect, such as in his 2015 collection ‘Neither Nowt Nor Summat’ in which the popular poem ‘The Meaning of Life’ is written in his local speech patterns.

Andrew Marvell

Born in 1621, Marvell grew up in Hull in Yorkshire. Little is known about his personal life, but he studied in Cambridge and stood for Hull in parliament in Cromwell’s government. Marvell’s poems criticised the court and parliament in famous political poems such as ‘Tom May’s Death’. Marvell was one of the greatest poets of the 17th Century along with Donne and Milton. Showing the solidarity between poets, he freed Milton from jail using his status as a member of parliament.

WH Auden

Auden was a world-famous Victorian-era poet born in York who is known as a writer of every type of poem, from ballads and limericks to nonsense verse – all with varied tones, from wit to romance and everything in between. Not only was Auden the most versatile poet of his generation or arguably since, but his poems were also very cultured. Having studied at Oxford, he developed a keen interest in literature, art forms, social, political and scientific theories and technical information.

Auden’s first published collection ‘Poems’ (1930) gave him well-earned acclaim as the leading light in UK poetry. He is best-known for his 1947 collection ‘Age of Anxiety’. Auden went on to travel the world and documented his journeys in verse. He is widely regarded as one of the greatest English poets of the 20th Century.