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Richard Berengarten

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Richard Burns


University College London, Pembroke College, Cambridge

Notness: 101 Metaphys, For the living, Under Balkan Light, The Manager, Imagems 1

Lunch poems richard berengarten

Richard Berengarten (born 1943) is a European poet, translator and editor. Having lived in Italy, Greece, the USA and the former Yugoslavia, his perspectives as a poet combine English, French, Mediterranean, Jewish, Slavic, American and Oriental influences. His subjects deal with historical and political material, with inner worlds, relationships and everyday life.His work is marked by its multicultural frames of reference, depth of themes, and variety of form. In the 1970s, he founded and ran the international Cambridge Poetry Festival. He has been an important presence in contemporary poetry for the past 40 years, and his work has been translated into more than 90 languages.


Interview with the poet richard berengarten burns march 2015

Life and work

Richard Berengarten (also known as Richard Burns) was born in London in 1943 of Jewish immigrant parents. He was educated at Mill Hill School, and went on to study English at Pembroke College, Cambridge (1961–64) and Linguistics at University College London (1977–78).

Richard Berengarten httpsliteraturebritishcouncilorgassetsUploa

He has lived in Italy, Greece, the UK, the USA and the former Yugoslavia, and worked extensively in the Czech Republic, Latvia, Macedonia, Poland, Slovenia and Russia.

Richard Berengarten published his first story (under the name of Richard Burns) at the age of 16 in Transatlantic Review. As a student, he wrote for Granta and co-founded the Oxbridge magazine Carcanet. He worked in Padua and Venice, briefly as apprentice to the English poet Peter Russell. In Greece, he witnessed the military coup d’état and in response wrote The Easter Rising 1967. Returning to Cambridge, he met Octavio Paz and, with Anthony Rudolf, co-edited An Octave for Octavio Paz (1972). In the same year, his first poetry collection, Double Flute won an Eric Gregory Award.

While lecturing at Cambridgeshire College of Arts and Technology (now Anglia Ruskin University) in 1975 he launched and co-ordinated the Cambridge Poetry Festival, presenting international poets like John Ashbery, Allen Ginsberg, Rolf Dieter Brinkmann, Ted Hughes, Michael Hamburger and numerous others.

His posts include: the British Council, Athens (1967); East London College (1968-9); Cambridgeshire College of Arts and Technology (1969–79); Arts Council resident writer, Victoria Centre for Adult Education (1979–81); Visiting Professor, Notre Dame University (1982); and British Council Lector, Belgrade (1987–91). He is an authority on creative writing for children and adults, and on writing skills for university students. He was Royal Literary Fund Fellow at Newnham College, Cambridge (2003-2005), Project Fellow (2005-2006), and is currently a Preceptor at Corpus Christi College, a Bye-Fellow at Downing College and an Academic Associate at Pembroke College, Cambridge. He also teaches at Peterhouse and Wolfson College, Cambridge, a Fellow of the English Association, and poetry editor of the Jewish Quarterly.

Berengarten has translated poetry, fiction and criticism from Croatian, French, Greek, Italian, Macedonian and Serbian.

His poems and poetry books have been translated into over 85 languages (the poem Volta, presented in issue 9/2009 of The International Literary Quarterly (London) - Richard Burns, Volta: A Multilingual Anthology - into 75. Crna Svetlost (Black Light) was published in Yugoslavia in 1984, Arbol (Tree) in Spain in 1986, and bilingual editions of Tree/Baum (1989) and Black Light/Schwarzes Licht (1996), both translated by Theo Breuer, were published in Germany.

In 2004, Berengarten's first book of selected writings 'For the Living' includes the award-winning poems 'The Rose of Sharon' (Keats Memorial Prize) and 'In Memory of George Seferis I' (Duncan Lawrie Prize).

Berengarten's 'Balkan Trilogy': The Blue Butterfly (2006), In A Time of Drought (2006); and Under Balkan Light (2008) has won international recognition, the first receiving the Wingate Prize, and the second receiving the Morava International Poetry Prize. The Blue Butterfly takes as its starting point, a Nazi massacre on 21 October 1941 in Kragujevac in the former Yugoslavia. Richard Berengarten visited the site and the memorial museum in 1985, when a blue butterfly landed on the forefinger of his writing hand. The resulting work is powerful, examining themes of revenge and forgiveness from the historical context to the present time. He was made an honorary citizen of Kragujevac in 2012, and the title poem is well known in the former Yugoslavia through the translation by Danilo Kiš and Ivan V. Lalic.

Richard Berengarten's perspectives as a poet combine British, French, Mediterranean, Jewish, Slavic, American and Oriental influences. On his own work Berengarten says: "I would rather think of myself as a European poet who writes in English than as an 'English' poet."

There is no civilisation without poetry. A poet’s responsibilities are social as well as subjective, communal as well as individual. Poetry, if it is not to caricature or betray itself, needs to involve critical commitment to both the past and future history of ‘all humanity’, and all nature.

Berengarten is a popular reader of his own poetry, and a dynamic teacher.

Richard Berengarten lives in Cambridge.


  • The Easter Rising (1967)
  • The Return of Lazarus (1971)
  • Avebury (1972)
  • Double Flute (1972)
  • Inhabitable Space (1976)
  • Angels (1977)
  • Some Poems (1977)
  • Learning to Talk (1980)
  • Tree (1980)
  • Roots/Routes (1982)
  • Black Light (1983)
  • Half of Nowhere (1998)
  • Croft Woods (1999)
  • Against Perfection (1999)
  • The Manager (2001)
  • Book With No Back Cover (2003)
  • For the Living (2004)
  • The Blue Butterfly ( Balkan Trilogy I, 2006)
  • In a Time of Drought (2006) (Balkan Trilogy II, 2006)
  • Under Balkan Light (Balkan Trilogy III, 2008)
  • Like Dew Upon the Morning, six poems Spokes Magazine 9 (2012)
  • Poems From 'Changing', Fortnightly Review (2014)
  • Changing (2015)
  • Manual (selected writings VI, 2009, 2014)
  • Notness: Metaphysical Sonnets (2015)
  • Anthologies

    Anthology collections containing works by Richard Berengarten

  • Neil Wenborn & MEJ Hughes - Contourlines: New Responses to Landscape in Words and Image(2009)
  • Prose

  • Ceri Richards and Dylan Thomas - Keys To Transformation (1981)
  • Anthony Rudolf & The Menard Press (1985)
  • Anthony Dorrell: Am Memoir (1989)
  • With Peter Russell in Venice (1996)
  • Border/Lines: an Introduction (2009)
  • The dialectics of oxygen: Twelve Propositions (2010)
  • A Nimble Footing on the Coals: Tin Ujevic, Lyricist:Some English Perspectives (2011)
  • Octavio Paz in Cambridge, 1970 (2015)
  • On Poetry and Sound: The Ontogenesis of Poetry (2015)
  • On Writing and Inner Speech (2015)
  • Editor

  • An Octave for Octavio Paz (1972)
  • Ceri Richards: Drawings to Poems by Dylan Thomas (1980)
  • Rivers of Life (1980)
  • Roberto Sanesi, In Visible Ink: Selected Poems (1983)
  • Homage to Mandelstam (1981)
  • Roberto Sanesi, In Visible Ink: Selected Poems (1983)
  • For Angus - Poems, Prose, Sketches and Music (2008) with Gideon Calder
  • Volta: A Multilingual Anthology (2009)
  • Nasos Vayenas - The Perfect Order: Selected Poems 1974-2010 (2010). Edited by Paschalis Nikolaou, Richard Berengarten
  • Translations

  • Aldo Vianello, Time of a Flower
  • A. Samarakis, The Flaw (tr. with Peter Mansfield)
  • Roberto Sanesi, The Graphic Works of Ceri Richards
  • Roberto Sanesi, On the Art of Henry Moore
  • Nasos Vayenas, Biography
  • Tin Ujević - Twelve Poems (2013)
  • Paschalis Nikalaou - 12 Greek Poems After Cavafy (2015)
  • Edited by George Szirtes - New Order: Hungarian Poets of the Post 1989 Generation
  • Works About Richard Berengarten

  • Simon Jenner on Richard Berengarten (2013)
  • Norman Jope, Paul Scott Derrick & Catherine E. Byfield: The Companion to Richard Berengarten (2016)
  • Awards

  • Eric Gregory Award (1972)
  • Keats Memorial Prize for Poetry (1972)
  • Art Council Writer' Award (1973)
  • Keats Memorial Poetry Prize (1974)
  • Duncan Lawrie Prize, Arvon International Poetry Competition (1982)
  • Yeats Club Prize for poem and translation (1989)
  • Yeats Club Prize for translation (1990)
  • International Morava Poetry Prize (2005)
  • Jewish Quarterly-Wingate Literary Prize for Poetry (1992)
  • International Morava Poetry Prize (2005)
  • Veliki školski čas award (Serbia) (2007)
  • Manada Prize (Macedonia) (2011)
  • References

    Richard Berengarten Wikipedia

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