John Heath-Stubbs, British poet famed for his poetry inspired by classical myths and winner of the 1973 Queen”s Gold Medal for Poetry, died this morning at the age of 88. His most famous poems include his long poem on King Arthur, Artorius, in 1972, and a series of poem sequences written for Hearing Eye Publications between 1987 and 1994.
Heath-Stubbs was born in 1918, and educated at Worcester College for the Blind and Queens College, Oxford. He was born with a congenital problem with his sight, and suffered from periods of blindness. By 1978, he was completely blind. Despite his blindness, he continued to write until the end of his life. He was noted for his translations of Middle Eastern poems, notably The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam, which he translated in 1979 with Peter Avery to mixed critical notice. The writing of his poem Ibycus was the subject of a documentary by Carlos Klein. Ibycus, the story of a poet who is murdered on his way to compete in a poetry contest, is written in the tradition of classical Greek tragedies. Heath-Stubbs is often credited with having kept alive the tradition of the long narrative poem.
Among the poet”s other honors were the St. Augustine Cross and the OBE. He was first published in Eight Oxford Poets in 1941, and has a distinguished and prolific career. Heath-Stubbs was widely regarded as a very versatile poet, as much at home in free verse as he was working in form. His sonnets, villanelles and couplets are especially noted, and his several collections of light verse include a pamphlet of eight poems about the cats of famous poets. Heath-Stubbs was diagnosed with lung cancer four months ago, and died at a nursing home in West London this morning.