Alice Oswald is a British poet who lives in Devon with her family. Newspaper profiles will inevitably mention the fact that after studying classics at Oxford she worked as a gardener. In fairness, her time working as a gardener was hugely important to her poetic development.
Oswald speaks passionately about her engagement with the land, hard work, plants and natural rhythms, but takes issue with labels such as ‘nature poet’. From her first collection of poems (The Thing in the Gap Stone Stile, Faber, 1996) to her most recent (Memorial, Faber, 2011) Oswald has been acclaimed, won prizes and consistently sounded unlike anyone else. She has written multi-voice poems of British rivers (Dart and Sleepwalk on the Severn) weaving oral history, drama and social documentary. She has written quiet, tender but unsentimental poems about parenthood and love. She has written bracingly violent poems about war and death. Oswald has worked on anthologies including selections of Thomas Wyatt and Ted Hughes. She has collaborated with artists, musicians and playwrights and increasingly works away from the conventions of the printed book.
Alice Oswald seems genuinely uninterested in celebrity poet status, whilst grateful for the support that prizes offer, and has been unafraid to distance herself from causes or trends she finds disquieting. Her ninety-minute long recitals of Memorial received standing ovations. Rather than being tempted to exploit or over-extend the acclaim those performances generated, Oswald is keen to be back at work on various new projects. The defining characteristic of her poetry, as well as her conversation, is honesty.