David Wevill was born a Canadian in Japan in 1935, and was educated in both Canada and England. He has lived in Burma and in Spain but has made his home in Austin, Texas for the past fifty years. While resident in England in the 1950s and ’60s, he established a substantial reputation as a poet, publishing four volumes between 1964 and 1973. He won prizes, was represented in major anthologies such as The New Poetry and A Group Anthology, and was included in the renowned Penguin Modern Poets series before his first full collection appeared. His first four publications, gathered together in this volume with some uncollected poems from the Penguin volume and A Group Anthology, are: Birth of a Shark (1964), A Christ of the Ice-floes (1966), Firebreak (1971) and Where the Arrow Falls (1973). He also published translations of Ferenc Juhász during this period.
In the late ’60s he moved across the Atlantic to take up a position in Austin, Texas, and then joined the University of Texas there in 1970, where he remained until retirement as Professor Emeritus in 2008. He still lives in Austin today. His work fell from view in Britain after the publication of Where the Arrow Falls, although it continued to be published in his native Canada. Those later books are brought together in the companion volume, Collected Later Poems. A volume of short prose, Casual Ties, appeared in the U.S.A. in 1983, and is published in a new edition simultaneously with these collected editions.
Important for the development of his early work were Jungian theory and mid-century Spanish poetry, above all García Lorca, Neruda and Paz. As Martin Seymour-Smith observed, “The Jungian ‘search’, an admittedly circular one, is Wevill’s main theme, and so his poetry needs to be read in its entirety to be fully appreciated.”
“Among the poets of Atlantis – those who belong to both the Old World and the New, I have always thought of David Wevill as one of the finest in our time.” — Nathaniel Tarn