Pilling, Christopher (Robert)

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PILLING, Christopher (Robert)

Nationality: British. Born: Birmingham, Warwickshire, 20 April 1936. Education: King Edward's School, Birmingham, 1947–54; University of Leeds, Yorkshire, 1954–57, B.A. (honors) 1957; Institute of French Studies, La Rochelle, France, 1955; Diplôme d'Études Françaises, 1955; Loughborough College, University of Nottingham, 1958–59, Cert. Ed. 1959. Family: Married Sylvia Pilling in 1960; one son and two daughters. Career: Assistant in English. École Normale, Moulins, France, 1957–58; French and athletics teacher, Wirral Grammar School, Cheshire, 1959–61, King Edward's Grammar School, Birmingham, 1961–62, and Ackworth School, Pontefract, Yorkshire, 1962–71, 1972–73; head of modern languages, Knottingley High School, Yorkshire, 1973–78; tutor in English, University of Newcastle upon Tyne Department of Adult Education, 1978–80; head of French, Keswick School, Cumbria, 1980–88. Reviewer, Times Literary Supplement, London, 1973–74. Awards: New Poets award, 1970; Arts Council grant, 1971, 1977; Kate Collingwood award, for play, 1983; Northern Arts award, 1985; Lauréat du Concours Européen de Création Littéraire, 1992; Tyrone Guthrie Centre residency, 1993; European Poetry Translation Network Residency, Tyrone Guthrie Centre, Annaghmakerrig, for the translation of Turkish poets, 1995, and for the translation of Israeli Poets, 1998; Bourse des Communautés Européennes for Residency at the Collège International des Traducteurs Littéraires, Arles, 1996; Hawthornden fellowship, 1998. Address: 25 High Hill, Keswick, Cumbria CA12 5NY, England.



Snakes and Girls. Leeds, University of Leeds School of English Press, 1970.

Fifteen Poems. Leeds, University of Leeds School of English Press, 1970.

In All the Spaces on All the Lines. Manchester, Phoenix Pamphlet Poets Press, 1971.

Wren and Owl. Leeds, University of Leeds School of English Press, 1971.

Andrée's Bloom and the Anemones. Rush den, Northamptonshire, Sceptre Press, 1973.

Light Leaves. Hitchin, Hertfordshire, Cellar Press, 1975.

War Photographer Since the Age of 14. Hitchin, Hertfordshire, Starwheel Press. 1983.

Foreign Bodies. Newcastle upon Tyne, Flambard Press, 1992.

Cross Your Legs and Wish. Bradford, Redbeck Press, 1994.

The Lobster Can Wait. Nottingham, Shoestring Press, 1998.

In the Pink. Bradford, Redbeck Press, 1999.


Translator, Les Amours Jaunes, by Tristan Corbière. Calstock, Cornwall, Peterloo Poets, 1995.

Translator, with David Kennedy, The Press, by Max Jacob. Dublin, Fishamble Press, 2000.


Critical Studies: By Julian MacKenney, in Poetry and Audience (Leeds), 1 May 1970; by Harry Guest, in Modern Poetry in Translation, King's College, University of London, 1998.

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Snakes and Girls and In All the Spaces on All the Lines show Christopher Pilling bringing out, at his best, the subjective depths of everyday domestic moments by forming around them multiple concrete and abstract analogies. This can be seen, for example, in "Sunscape," "Old Celtic Cocoon," and "Partial Ellipse," all in Snakes and Girls. The opening of "Partial Ellipse" illustrates how concretely observant this poetic evocation can be:

My wife's wedding ring is no longer
A gold curve
Is all I see on a hand-coloured
One does not think the world is

Pilling's more discursive poems tend to be less fully achieved. They do, however, suggest the poet's intellectual grasp of his life-loving orientation, as shown by this excerpt from "Crow Answers by Flight":

The world is not so sinister, such dark.
The left-handed is another turn of truth.
The poet needs an ambidextrous strain.
The words must not go to the ends of the earth.
Hammer them to the gallows of a poem
And let them cry of a spirit they have denied.

—Anne Cluysenaar