Biography of Craig Williamson
Craig Williamson was born in 1943 in West Lafayette, Indiana, where he grew up writing poetry and rock and roll songs and acting in various local productions. His early starring role was as the young Abraham Lincoln at the Indiana State Fair.
He attended Stanford University from 1961 to 1965 where he wrote poetry and helped edit the literary magazine. He also sang with the Mendicants and wrote and arranged their rock and roll songs, performing as “The Little Bopper.” He wrote his honors thesis on Vladimir Nabokov’s Lolita and graduated with a BA in English Literature with Great Distinction. He went on to study English literature at Harvard university. After receiving his MA, he left Harvard and served his alternative service as a conscience objector in the VISA program of the American Friends Service Committee in Tanzania where he worked in a small village and wrote poems about the life there. Later he travelled to South Africa to write about conditions there and to meet with Alan Paton who wrote the foreword to his book of poems, African Wings, published in 1969 by Citadel Press.
While he was in Africa, he became interested in oral poetic genres such as riddles, folktales, and heroic stories and their passing into literary form. He returned home to study medieval English literature and linguistic anthropology at the University of Pennsylvania where he wrote his dissertation on The Old English Riddles of the Exeter Book, which was published by the University of North Carolina Press in 1977.
In 1972 he began teaching English at Swarthmore College where he is currently the Alfred H. and Peggi Bloom Professor. He has served as Chair of the English Department, Associate Provost, and Director of the college’s renowned Honors Program.
His major publications include: (1) a translation of the poetry of Léopold Sédar Senghor, Selected Poems/Poésies Choisies [a bilingual edition], (Rex Collings, Ltd., London, 1976); (2) a translation of Old English Riddles, A Feast of Creatures: Anglo-Saxon Riddle-Songs, (University of Pennsylvania Press, 1982; Scolar Press, London, 1983), which was awarded a Columbia University Translation Center prize in 1983; (3) a translation of Beowulf and Other Old English Poems, with a foreword by Tom Shippey (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2011); (4) a number of other poems in various journals. His poem, "A Riddle Song for Duke Ellington," with an illustration by Nicki Adler, appeared in the Poetry-on-the-Buses Program in Pittsburgh and Philadelphia and was also shown in a number of museums.
He has held fellowships from the Danforth Foundation, the Woodrow Wilson Foundation, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the American Council of Learned Societies.
His current projects include a translation of the complete poems of the Anglo-Saxons (31,000 lines) and a translation of the biblical psalms. He is married to Raima Evan, who is an Assistant Dean at Bryn Mawr College, and a writer of plays and short stories.
A brief video clip of Craig Williamson chanting a passage from Beowulf and reading from his translation to his Swarthmore seminar is available at:
Publications and Prizes
Books:Beowulf and Other Old English Poems
(University of Pennsylvania Press, 2011), Feast of Creatures
(University of Pennsylvania Press, 1982), Senghor's Poems
(Rex Collings Limited, 1976), African Wings
(Citadel Press, 1969)
Columbia University Translation Center Prize
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Listing last updated: October 6, 2016