The University of Leeds has a long and prestigious tradition in arts and culture that spans from its foundation through to the present day. The Poetry Centre brings together our strength and heritage in creative writing, fostering a unique environment for research, teaching and public engagement. Our varied activities share a common goal of celebrating and facilitating excellence in poetry, both within and outside of the University.
As a result of its long-standing engagement with poetry and poets, the University houses an internationally significant set of archives in its Special Collections. These include the archives of individual poets (including those of Tony Harrison, Geoffrey Hill, Jon Silkin, Ken Smith, and Simon Armitage), publications such as Stand and the London Magazine,and poetry publishers like Enitharmon and Greville.
The University has a long-standing and historically significant engagement with poetry and poets, and many of our alumni have gone on to great acclaim, including Jon Silkin, Tony Harrison, James Simmons, Ian Duhig, Sean O’Brien, Jeffrey Wainwright, Jon Glover, Linda France, Sarah Corbett, Yorkshire Arts Fellow Ken Smith, and boxer-poet Vernon Scannell.
Between 1950 and 1980 the pioneering Gregory Fellowships scheme (under the patronage of Eric Gregory and with the assistance of T. S. Eliot, Herbert Read, and the then Head of the Department of English Bonamy Dobrée) brought twelve poets to Leeds as artists in residence, and Geoffrey Hill was also a member of staff during this period (1954-1981).
The student magazine Poetry and Audience was established in 1953 by Canadian undergraduate Ralph Maude, and in 1960 Gregory Fellow Jon Silkin brought Stand magazine to the University, creating another focus and stimulus for poets and poetry.
From the early 1990s to the present, the School of English has employed a number of Creative Writing Fellows, including the poets Sarah Maguire, Ian Duhig, Simon Armitage, Sean O’Brien, John Hartley Williams, Peter Sansom, Amanda Dalton, Kitty Fitzgerald, Vahni Capildeo, Paul Maddern, Linda France, Evan Jones, and Malika Booker.
As part of the University’s plan to create a new Academy of Cultural Fellows – following the historical precedent of the Gregory Fellowships – a generous donation by alumnus Douglas Caster was used to establish a new fellowship in poetry. The Douglas Caster Fellows so far have included Helen Mort, Malika Booker, and Vahni Capildeo. In addition, Simon Armitage was appointed as the University’s first Professor of Poetry in 2017.