Ruth Pitter: A Traditionalist poet

Ruth Pitter: A Traditionalist poet

Ruth Pitter was one of the traditionalists British poets. She did not make any experiments in the poetry like other modern poets. Being a traditionalist poet, Ruth Pitter never followed the experiments of modern poetry and throughout her career she preferred the meter and rhyme schemes of the nineteenth century. Because of this Pitter was overlooked by the critics of her time. It is in recent time that she has been acclaimed as a poet. Philip Larkin accepted her greatness as a poet when he included her poems in ‘The Oxford Book of Twentieth Century English Verse’. 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.

• Ruth Pitter belonged to a working class family. She was born in a middle class family on 7th November 1897 in Ilford.

• Pitter was highly influenced by her parents for her interest in poetry.

• She started writing poetry at the early age when she was in the school.

• Since she belonged to a poor middle class family, she had to work in a small furniture painting company for much of her life for her livelihood.

• She knew very well that her interest in poetry will not provide enough for her livelihood. So she worked in small company that painted and restored furniture for a long time. She was expert in flower painting on the furniture.

• Later on, along with her lifelong friend, Kathleen O’Hara she started a business of furniture painting. But during the war the business was closed and so she started working in ammunition factory.

• When the situation improved she again started the furniture painting business. Thus we see that Pitter never depended on income from the poetry. It was only her hobby to write poetry.

• She was an independent woman. She never married. Although she had very good friendship with C.S. Lewis who admired her poetry and she, too, was highly impressed by him, but they could not marry due to some unknown reasons. Ruth Pitter was so much influenced by C.S. Lewis that she was converted to Anglicanism.

Ruth Pitter wrote a lot of poems which are included in the 18 collections of poetry. Her first collection of poems entitled, ‘First Poems’ was published in 1920 with the help of her friend, Hildire Belloc, a writer and satirist:

• The subject of her poetry is very wide. She wrote almost on all subjects from religion to love and animals.

• The major themes of her poetry are religion, love, Nature, English landscapes and human nature. Many of her poems were critically acclaimed by the critics of her time.

In the recognition of her talent as a poet,Pitter was awarded many awards for her poetry. She received the Howthornden Prize in 1937 for her collected poems, ‘A Trophy of Arms’. In 1954 she won the William E. Heinemann Award for her book, ‘The Ermine’. In 1955 she was awarded the Queen’s Gold Medal for her poetry. She was the first female poet to receive this award. She also used to attend BBC radio programme as a guest. She also appeared regularly on the BBC’s ‘The Brains Trust’, one of the first television talk show programmes.

• Some of Pitter’s famous poems are: Stormcock in Elder, The Heart’s Desire is Full of Sleep, The Bat, For Sleep or Death, The Wood path in spring, The Viper, Holiday in Heaven, The Comet, Constancy, The Estuary, If you come, etc.

• Her famous collections of poetry are: First Poems, First and Second Poems, A Trophy of Arms, The Spirit Watches etc.

• She has written and published eighteen collections of poetry in her life. Ruth Pitter died on February 29, 1992 at the age 89.

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Prof.(Dr.) Asghar Ali Ansari 

School of Languages, Literature & Society

Jaipur National University, Jaipur, India