From hidden connections with Shakespeare and Marlowe right up to the present day, Hackney has a long and proud history of producing poets. To celebrate World Poetry Day this Tuesday, we’re taking a look at the borough’s literary stars.
The American poet and writer of short stories was a pupil at the Manor House School on Stoke Newington Church Street for three years in his early teens. His adopted family returned to America in 1820, and his macabre tales would later earn him an important place in the American literary world.
Mary Lamb is best known for co-writing a collection entitled Tales from Shakespeare with her brother, the poet Charles Lamb. The brother and sister pair were at the centre of the Romantics’ London circle, and would play host to Wordsworth, Coleridge and Hazlitt. After a mental breakdown which resulted in her murdering her mother, Mary spent a period of convalescence in Hoxton.
The former Children’s Laureate lived in Dalston. He lived in Hackney for 32 years and his grandparents from 1946 to 1970. He is best known for the much-loved children’s classic We’re Going on a Bear Hunt, which was first published in 1989. More recently, he has contributed to collections of political poetry, including Emergency Verse – Poetry in Defence of the Welfare State (2010) and Poets for Corbyn (2015).
Born in Mortimer Road, De Beauvoir, Gosse went on to become a hugely influential literary figure – a poet, author, critic, translator, journalist and lecturer. Gosse introduced the works of Ibsen to the British stage, and the careers of Algernon Swinburne, André Gidé, Siegfried Sassoon, James Joyce and W.B. Yeats were all given a boost by his mentorship.
Another member of the dissenting community of Newington Green, Rogers was one of the best known poets of his day. As a contemporary of the early Romantics, he worked alongside Byron, Coleridge and Wordsworth, but also lived long enough to pass comment on the suitability of Tennyson for the role of Poet Laureate.
Watts was a Nonconformist theologian who lived in and around the community of Dissenters in Newington Green. He wrote a vast number of hymns and carols, including “Joy to the World”, and is credited with introducing a new level of personal spirituality into English worship.
Dismissed as a children’s writer during her lifetime, and forgotten until feminist re-evaluations in the 1980s brought her work to light, Barbauld’s legacy as a poet has been far from straightforward. Despite being married to a high-profile pastor at the Newington Green Unitarian Church, her poetic career came to an abrupt end in 1812 when she received a barrage of criticism for a poem imagining the collapse of the British Empire.
Anglo-Irish visual artist and poet Tom Raworth lived on Amhurst Road, near Hackney Downs, in the 1960s. Raworth was a pioneer of experimental modernist poetry, and as a publisher he brought the works of American poets such as Allen Ginsberg and John Ashbery to Britain.
(Top image credit: American Bookmen via Wikimedia Commons)
Correction: This article originally stated that Michael Rosen lives in Dalston. It was updated to say that he used to live there.