Ruth Pitter

Ivor Griffiths, Poet, Novelist & Short Story Writer

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Emma Thomas Ruth Pitter (1897 - 29 February 1992) was a British poet.

She was the first woman to receive the Queen's Gold Medal for Poetry (in 1955), and was appointed a Commander of the British Empire in 1979 to honour her many contributions to English literature.

In 1974 she was named a Companion of Literature, the highest honor given by the Royal Society of Literature.


Pitter began writing poetry early in life under the influence of her parents (both educators). In 1920, she published her first book of poetry with the help of Hilaire Belloc. She went on to publish numerous volumes of poetry, many of which were met with some critical and financial success.

She received the Hawthornden Prize in 1937 for A Trophy of Arms, published the previous year. In 1954 she won the William E. Heinemann Award for her book, Ermine (1953).

Style and Influences

Pitter was a traditionalist poet--she avoided most of the experimentations of modern verse and preferred the meter and rhyme schemes of the 19th century. Because of this, Pitter was too frequently overlooked by the major critics of her day, and has only in recent years been seen as an important British poet of the 20th century: her reputation has been helped in large part by Philip Larkin's respect for her poetry (he included four of her poems in the Oxford Book of Twentieth Century English Verse).

She was a good friend of C. S. Lewis, who admired her poetry, and reportedly said once that if he was the kind of man who got married, he would want to marry Ruth Pitter.

She met and corresponded with Lewis for many years, and is thought by many Lewis scholars to have had an effect on his writing in the 1940s and 1950s.

W. B. Yeats, Robin Skelton, and Thom Gunn also appreciated Pitter's work and praised her poetry. Lord David Cecil once remarked that Pitter was one of the most original and moving poets then living.

External link

  • [1] Recent project to write two books on Pitter's life.
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