Ruth Pitter - Style and Influences

Style and Influences

Pitter was a traditionalist poet—she avoided most of the experimentations of modern verse and preferred the meter and rhyme schemes of the 19th century. One critic has described her and her poetry thus:

Pitter, in contrast to T. S. Eliot, Ezra Pound, and W. H. Auden, is a traditional poet in the line of George Herbert, Thomas Traherne, Thomas Hardy, A. E. Housman, W. B. Yeats, and Philip Larkin. Unlike the modernists, she rarely experiments with meter or verse form, nor does she explore modernist themes or offer critiques of modern English society. Instead, she works with familiar meters and verse forms, and her reluctance to alter her voice to follow in the modernist line explains in part why critics have overlooked her poetry. She is not trendy, avant-garde, nor, thankfully, impenetrable. —Don King, "The religious poetry of Ruth Pitter," Christianity and Literature, June 22, 2005

Because of this, Pitter was frequently overlooked by critics of her day, and has only in recent years been seen as important: her reputation was helped by Larkin's respect for her poetry (he included four of her poems in The Oxford Book of Twentieth Century English Verse).

She was a good friend of C. S. Lewis, who admired her poetry and once said, according to his friend and biographer George Sayer, that if he was the kind of man who got married, he would have wanted to marry Ruth Pitter. In correspondence between the two, Lewis often critiqued her work and made suggestions. Pitter is considered by many Lewis scholars to have had an effect on his writing in the 1940s and 1950s.

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.

Pitter's work continues to be published in anthologies. For instance:

  • The Faber Book of 20th Century Women's Poetry, Ed. Fleur Adcock (London: Faber, 1987), where her "The Sparrow's Skull" and "Morning Glory" appear (77-78)
  • More Poetry Please! 100 Popular Poems from the BBC Radio 4 Programme (London: Everyman, 1988), where her "The Rude Potato" appears (101-02)
  • The Oxford Book of Garden Verse, Ed. John Dixon Hunt (Oxford: Oxford UP, 1993), where her "The Diehards" and "Other People's Glasshouses" appear (236-41)
  • The Norton Anthology of Literature by Women: The Traditions in English, 2nd ed., Eds. Sandra M. Gilbert and Susan Gubar (New York: Norton, 1996 ), where her "The Military Harpist," "The Irish Patriarch," "Old Nelly's Birthday," and "Yorkshire Wife's Saga" appear (1573–77)
  • The New Penguin Book of English Verse, Ed. Paul Keegan (London: Allen Lane, Penguin Press, 2000), where her "But for Lust" appears (962)

Read more about this topic:  Ruth Pitter

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