David Wright (poet)

David Wright

David Wright, by Patrick Swift, c. 1960
Born 23 February 1920(1920-02-23)
Johannesburg, South Africa
Died 28 August 1994(1994-08-28) (aged 74)
Waldron, East Sussex
Occupation Poet
Nationality South African by birth; British
Education Oriel College, Oxford

David John Murray Wright (1920–1994) was an author and "an acclaimed South African-born poet".[1]



Wright was born in Johannesburg, South Africa 23 February 1920 of normal hearing. He contracted scarlet fever at age 7, and was deafened as a result of the disease. He emigrated to England at the age of 14, where he was enrolled in the Northampton School for the Deaf. He studied at Oriel College, Oxford, and graduated in 1942.

His first work, a poem entitled Eton Hall, was published in 1942-1943 in the journal Oxford Poetry.[2]

He became a freelance writer in 1947 after working on the Sunday Times newspaper for five years. He edited the literary magazine Nimbus from 1955-56 during which time he published 19 poems, sent to him by Patrick Swift, by Patrick Kavanagh. Antoinette Quinn in Kavanagh's biography says that " Publication there was to prove a turning point…The publication of his next volume of verse, Come Dance with Kitty Stobling, was to be directly linked to the mini-collection in Nimbus, and his Collected Poems (1964)...".[3] He co-founded the quarterly literary review X which he co-edited from 1959-1962. His work includes three books about Portugal written with Patrick Swift, his co-founder and co-editor of X. He translated The Canterbury Tales and Beowulf. He penned an autobiography in 1969, and a biography about a fellow South African poet in 1961. He also edited a number of publications throughout the 1960s and 1970s.

Wright was not reticent about his deafness, and his autobiography, ‘’Deafness. A Personal Account’’ (1969), is often used to give hearing people an insight into an experience they might not easily imagine.

In 1951, he married Philippa ("Pippa") Reid (d. 1985); and Oonagh Swift in 1987. Wright lived in Braithwaite, just outside Keswick, in the Lake District of England, and became good friends with Norman Nicholson, a fellow poet, and his wife, often visiting each other.

Wright died of cancer in Waldron, East Sussex, 28 August 1994.

Quotes about

  • "His poetry was by turns lyrical, satirical and narrative. Sometimes it was fueled by recollections of his homeland, although he was not politically active on South African issues." (New York Times)
  • "profuse, fluent, versatile" and "the foremost South African poet of his generation." The Daily Telegraph
  • "It is a creative paradox that we owe to a deaf man some of the most striking images of sound in contemporary English poetry." Geoffrey Hill 1980
  • "His poetry is remarkable for its quiet intelligence and humour, and the integrity of its style. The tone is conversational, though not in the sense of reproducing a factitious chattiness; rather, it creates the lively curve of an eminently humane mind's thinking and speaking" (T.J.G. Harris, in The Oxford Companion to Twentieth-Century Poetry, ed. Ian Hamilton (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1994), p. 589).

Published works

Poems, David Wright
Deafness, David Wright

As poet

  • David Wright: Poems and Versions. ISBN 0-85635-963-7.
  • Moral Stories (1954).
  • Monologue of a Deaf Man (1958).
  • Adam at Evening (1965).
  • To the gods the Shades: New and Collected Poems (1976).
  • Metrical Observations (1980).
  • Selected Poems (1988),Carcanet Press Ltd, ISBN 978-0856357534.
  • Elegies (1990).

As author

  • Deafness: A Personal Account (1969); Faber & Faber; Revised edition (October 1991). ISBN 0-571-14195-1.
  • Roy Campbell (1961).
  • The Canterbury Tales, prose translation by David Wright, Vintage Books, NY, 1964, 1986, 1998.
  • Beowulf, translated by David Wright, Penguin Books, Baltimore, MD, 1960, 1962, 1980.

As co-author

  • Three books about Portugal (David Wright & Patrick Swift): Algarve, A Portrait and a Guide(Barrie & Rockliff, London 1965); Minho, A Portrait and a Guide (Barrie & Rockliff, London 1968); Lisbon, A Portrait and a Guide (Barrie & Rockliff, London 1971).Info:[1]
  • PS...of course- Patrick Swift 1927-83,Veronica Jane O’Mara (ed.), with contributions on Swift by David Wright, George Barker, Anthony Cronin, et al. (Gandon Editions, Kinsale, 1993)

As editor

  • X, A Quarterly Review (Barrie and Rockliff 1959-1962).
  • X, An anthology, selected and with an introduction by David Wright, Oxford University Press (1988).
  • Longer Contemporary Poems (1966).
  • the Penguin Book of English Romantic Verse (1968). Penguin Books. ISBN 0-8446-3215-5.
  • the Penguin Book Of Everyday Verse (1976); Penguin Books New Ed edition (August 25, 1983). ISBN 0-14-042244-7.
  • Under the Greenwood Tree, Thomas Hardy, David Wright ed., ISBN 9780140431230, Penguin Books, 1979
  • Faber Book of Twentieth Century Verse, John Heath-Stubbs & David Wright, ISBN 9780571084753, Faber and Faber.
  • The Mid-Century : English Poetry 1940-60 , Penguin, 1965, David Wright (Ed)
  • The Forsaken Garden: An Anthology of Poetry 1824-1909 (1950), Edited by John Heath Stubbs and David Wright.
  • Seven Victorian poets, edited with an introduction and commentary by David Wright, London : Heinemann Educational, 1969.
  • Written talk : David Wright in conversation with Anthony Astbury, London : Mailer Press, 2006.


  1. ^ "David Wright, 74, South African Poet". New York Times. 1994-09-05. http://select.nytimes.com/gst/abstract.html?res=F50C17FB385C0C768CDDA00894DC494D81&n=Top%2fReference%2fTimes%20Topics%2fPeople%2fW%2fWright%2c%20David. Retrieved 2006-08-22. 
  2. ^ "Oxford Poetry 1942-1943". G. Nelson (personal website). http://www.gnelson.demon.co.uk/oxpoetry/index/i22.html. Retrieved 2006-08-22. 
  3. ^ Patrick Kavanagh: A Biography, by Antoinette Quinn, Gill & Macmillan Ltd, 2001, p: 359 (ISBN 0-7171-2651-X)

External links

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