Phoebe Hesketh

Ivor Griffiths, Poet, Novelist & Short Story Writer

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Phoebe Rayner Hesketh, (January 29, 1909 – February 25, 2005), was an English poet famed for her poems depicting nature.

Hesketh was born in Preston, Lancashire. Her father was the pioneer radiologist A. E. Rayner; her mother was a violinist in the Hallé Orchestra. She was educated at Cheltenham Ladies' College, but left at the age of 17 to care for her ill mother. She married Aubrey Hesketh, the director of a mill, in 1931 at the age of 22. Her first collection, Poems, was published in 1939, although she would later disown this work to an extent.

During World War II Hesketh worked as a reporter for the Bolton Evening News. In 1948 she published her second volume, Lean Forward, Spring, a book that earned her widespread acclaim amongst the literary community, including from Siegfried Sassoon. Throughout her career she would produce sixteen books and, although she never achieved popular success, was championed by several well-known figures including Sassoon, Roy Campbell, and Al Alvarez.

After the War she was a freelance lecturer, poetry teacher and journalist, producing many articles for journals and scripts for the BBC. Her Collected Poems were gathered together in 1989. Her poetry for younger readers was published in A Song of Sunlight (Chatto, 1974) and in Six of the Best (Puffin, 1989). She was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature in 1956.

For most of her life she lived in Lancashire, in a landscape frequently described in her poetry, and also in her prose books Rivington (1972) and Village of the Mountain Ash (1990).

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