Kenneth White


1936 -

Poet. Born in the Gorbals (Glasgow), White was raised in Fairlie (North Ayrshire), where his father worked as a railway signalman. He was educated there and in Largs and Ardrossan, before gaining a double-first in French and German from the University of Glasgow in 1959. He then moved to Paris to work on his doctorate, married fellow student Marie-Claude Charlut, and the couple settled briefly in the Ard├Ęche region of France, inspiring his Letters from Gourgounel. White then returned to Glasgow to lecture in French at the University (1963-67), then back to France to teach in English at the University of Paris (1969-83). He was then appointed Professor of Modern Poetry at the Sorbonne (1983-96) and accepted a fellowship at the Edinburgh College of Art (1999 - 2001).

White developed the concept of geopoetics in 1979 when he was walking in Canada. This promotes a connection between the human and the natural world, combining travel, thought and language, and draws inspiration from 'intellectual nomads' such as Friedrich Nietzsche and Patrick Geddes.

His poetry and essays, which are published in both French and English, include Wild Coal (1963), En tout candour (1964), The Most Difficult Area (1969), Travels in the Drifting Dawn (1989) House of Tides (2000) and Les Archives du Littoral (2011).

White has been awarded honorary doctorates by the University of Glasgow (1991) and Heriot-Watt University (1998), and was elected to the Royal Scottish Academy in 2001. The National Library of Scotland staged an exhibition on his work in Edinburgh in 1996 and his Collected Works were published by Aberdeen University Press in 2016. Since 1983, White has lived in Brittany and is better known in France than in the UK.


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