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  • Published: 15 May 2010
  • ISBN: 9780099547051
  • Imprint: Vintage
  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 160
  • RRP: $22.99


A Life in Poems

An intimate and moving interpretation of the life and work of Charles Darwin, by the acclaimed poet and direct descendent of the famous scientist.

Shortlisted for the 2009 Costa Poetry Award.

In these extraordinary poems, using multiple viewpoints - from Darwin himself, to his beloved wife Emma, and even, at one point, the orangutang at London Zoo - Ruth Padel illuminates the development of Darwin's thought, the drama of the discovery of evolution, and the fluctuating emotions of Darwin the husband, the naturalist and the tender father, in a powerful tribute to her famous ancestor.

Shortlisted for the 2009 Costa Poetry Award.

  • Published: 15 May 2010
  • ISBN: 9780099547051
  • Imprint: Vintage
  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 160
  • RRP: $22.99

About the author

Ruth Padel

Ruth Padel is a prize-winning poet, author of twelve acclaimed poetry collections and prose works including much-loved books on reading contemporary poetry, a travel-memoir on wild tiger conservation, and a study of the influence of Greek myth on rock music. Awards include a British Council Darwin Now Award, a Travel Bursary and Cholmondley Award from The Society of Authors, and First Prize in the National Poetry Competition. She is Professor of Poetry at King’s College London and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature.

Also by Ruth Padel

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Praise for Darwin

Exquisite, precise and moving poems...Once I started reading I could not put it down until I had reached the end, and then I turned back for the pleasure of reading again.

Claire Tomalin

A fascinating, very rich book...With sympathy and grace, Padel moves deftly between between science, love and family; between the vast processes of evolution and a personal life.

Sean O'Brien

Daring and exciting, brilliant and subtle, stunning and deeply impressive...a lesson to biographers and poets alike.

Colm Toibin

Ambitious...shows her extraordinary talent


Moments of Darwin's life captured with an economy and fluency that prosaic biographers might envy


Inspired...her poems are delicate, but with an unusual density...Padel's subtle account is worthy of a fine novelist

The Times

It feels like a deft act of collaboration between the living and the dead, one melding easily with the other...she seems to have caught the quintessence of the man's character, as if in a butterfly net


This is not a mere collection, but a complete miniature biography of the great man...immensely powerful... With her gleaming tropical imagery and a voice resonant with wondrous and tragic overtones, Padel has given us a renewed and intimate Darwin.

Richard Holmes, Guardian

They [the poems] convey what a sensitive, wondering, reverent observer Darwin was of life-forms

The Oldie

I love this collection and will happily re-read it several times.What Ruth Padel does so well is to marry her own sharply observed details with the beauty of Darwin's prose...It is a grand story told in poetry that never overlooks the small things.

Lesley McDowell, Independent on Sunday

a real gem

Selina Cadell, The Times

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