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Darwin: A life in poems
Ruth Padel, Great Great Grand-daughter of Charles Darwin

Darwin

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The poet Ruth Padel reads from her acclaimed poetry collection Darwin: A Life in Poems, on the life, thought, and marriage of her great great grandfather Charles Darwin.

This is no mere collection, but a complete miniature biography, told through linked but highly individual poems. For biographers, this would itself be a challenging revelation of economy and selection. This is a selection of visionary moments: snapshots, epiphanies, symbolic fragments. The emotional centre is the Darwins' stoic marriage, shaken by Emma's religious belief, torn by the death of their 10-year-old daughter, dramatised in a series of bleak and painful poems: an immensely powerful and disturbing sequence. This is a daring and genuinely innovative piece of work: a unique sense of drama, speed and poetic intensity in a long, sedate and ruminative scientific life. With her gleaming tropical imagery and her ingenious inner ‘voice’, resonant with wondrous and tragic overtones, Padel has given us a renewed and intimate Darwin. Indeed, she may have done more than that. She may have evolved a new species of biography - by poetic selection.” - Richard Holmes, The Guardian.

Speaker biography

Ruth Padel’s latest poetry collection, short-listed for the T S Eliot Prize, is Learning to Make an Oud in Nazareth. She is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature and Trustee of the Zoological Society of London.  Awards include First Prize in the National Poetry Competition and a British Council Darwin Now research award. She teaches poetry at King’s College London. Her collection Darwin: A Life in Poems was shortlisted for the Ted Hughes Prize.

Additional links

Find out more about Ruth Padel on her website.

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