Patricia Beer

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(British and Irish Poetry, Revised Edition)

Patricia Beer was born November 4, 1924, in Exmouth, Devon, England, and is a member of the first generation in England to have ready access to higher education through the state school system. Coming from a working-class background, she made her way through the state schools by excelling at her studies. As a native of Devon with a pronounced Devonian accent, she remembered being drilled by elocutionists who were determined to teach her “proper” speech. She resisted the instruction and retained the accent that no doubt exerted an influence, however subtle, on her poetry. She left home to study at Exeter University but graduated with a bachelor’s degree from the University of London and received another bachelor’s degree from St. Hugh’s College at Oxford University. After graduation she embarked on a teaching career and was a lecturer in English at the University of Padua in Italy, where she stayed from 1946 to 1948 before moving on to the British Institute and then the Ministero Aeronautica, both in Rome. By 1953, Beer had moved back to England, and she began writing in earnest. She supported herself in a series of odd jobs through the 1950’s, but in 1962, she went back to teaching at the University of London. She lectured there for several years. Her marriage to the writer P. N. Furbank had ended in divorce, and she married her second husband, John Damien Parsons, in 1964. In 1968, she chose to make writing her full-time profession. By that time, she had already seen several of her books published, including Loss of the Magyar, and Other Poems.

She would eventually divide her time between homes in Hampstead Heath (London) and Devon, considering her continued connection with the place of her birth an element essential to her creativity. She continued to write poetry and literary criticism in the years leading to her death and in the late 1990’s contributed to the London Review of Books. She died in 1999 from a stroke.