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Biography of Sylvia Kantaris

Sylvia Kantaris was born in 1936 in Derbyshire Peak District. She studied French at Bristol University, taught in Bristol and London, and then spent ten years in Australia, where she taught French at Queensland University, had two children, and wrote her M.A. and Ph.D. theses on French surrealism. Her articles on surrealism and poems were published widely in Australia and England in major periodicals and anthologies, including The Penguin Book of Modern Australian Verse. She was the joint winner of the Poetry Magazine Award in 1969

On writing poetry – from an interview with Sylvia Kantaris:

“It’s hell. I work through hundreds of drafts, and the poems keep changing, and I never know where I’m going to end up, if anywhere. I often lose track in the process. I am too pernickety and too impatient. The few poems that actually emerge out of the sludge amount to about 1% of ‘what might have been’, alas! If I were to keep all my drafts I’d be suffocated in sheets of paper by now. The lines that seem most ‘natural’ and ‘easy’ to readers are the ones I’ve worked hardest for, usually. The more ‘casual’ a poem may appear, the harder the slog I've put into trying to make it sound so casual.”

From Outposts (interview with Roland John)

In 1974 she settled in Helston, Cornwall, and from 1976 to 1984 tutored Twentieth Century Poetry for the Open University. In 1986 she was appointed Cornwall’s first Writer in the Community, and in 1989 received an honorary D.Litt. from Exeter University. Since 1990, she has lived by herself in Helston.

Her first two books of poems, Time & Motion (Prism/Poetry Society of Australia, 1975) and the Tenth Muse (Peterloo Poets, 1983), were both reissued by Menhir Press in 1986. Her third collection, The Sea at the Door (Secker & Warburg, 1985), is no longer available.

She has published two joint collections with other poets, News from the Front with D.M. Thomas (Arc, 1983), and The Air Mines of Mistila with Philip Gross (Bloodaxe Books, 1988), a poetry Book Society Choice.

Her latest titles are Dirty Washing: New & Selected Poems (Bloodaxe Books, 1989), including work from all her previous books except The Air Mines of Mistila, and a new collection, Lad's Love (Bloodaxe Books, 1993).



Sylvia Kantaris
Last updated: 09 December, 2018