11-07-1897

Ruth Pitter

RUTH PITTER, English poet, born, (d: 1992); the first woman to receive the Queen’s Gold Medal for Poetry (in 1955), and was appointed a Commander of the British Empire in 1979 to honor her many contributions to English literature. In 1974 she was named a Companion of Literature, the highest honor given by the Royal Society of Literature. Since making a living from poetry is virtually impossible, most poets, unless they are independently wealthy or kept, work at whatever it is that will keep them alive while they devote their lives to the Muse.

Pitter was a clerk in the war office during WWI, after which she took up pottery painting, eventually becoming a partner in a furniture and gift store. Her many volumes of poetry – from First Poem (1920) to Still by Choice (1965) – contain some of the best lyrics in modern English. When critics cavil that “her poetry is not profound” that really means it is accessible, a serious flaw since, in our time, “difficult” has become confused with “good.” If you like Edna St. Vincent Millay, you’ll like Pitter, and for the same reasons. 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 want to marry Ruth Pitter. If she were the kind of woman who got married.