Ruth Sophia Padel was born in London in 1946. She earned her doctorate in Greek at Oxford and then taught there from 1974 to 1984. Birkbeck College and Princeton were additional academic stations of this descendant of the naturalist Charles Darwin.
Her first poetic work »Alibi« was followed by nine more volumes of poetry, most recently »Learning to Make an Oud in Nazareth« (2014). Padel’s poetry is characterized by skillful work with structures like lines and verses, but also by a rich and inventive world of images and an energy arising from her musical sense of rhythm and rhyme. Her style is marked by the juxtaposition of the modern and the ancient world. Among the themes her poetry deals with are nature, science, history, wild animals, and human relationships. In 2002, Padel published »52 Ways of Looking at a Poem: How Reading Modern Poetry Can Change Your Life«, a collection of readings of contemporary poems based on an influential weekly column she wrote from 1998 to 2001 in the London newspaper, the »Independent on Sunday«, which encouraged readers to explore ways of tackling modern poetry. She followed this with a longer collection of readings, »The Poem and the Journey« (2006), of poems by her contemporaries, American, Irish, Canadian and British, exploring ways in which one can read each new poem as a journey. As Chair of the UK Poetry Society from 2004 to 2007, but also in a series of radio pieces on writing poetry and through lectures at Newcastle University, she exerted a strong influence on contemporary British poetry and its criticism. In nonfiction writings composed in parallel, the author also addressed topics that shape her own poetic oeuvre. For example, in »I’m A Man: Sex, Gods and Rock ’n’ Roll« (2000), she draws a connection between this direction in music and ancient misogyny. Her work on the protection of endangered animals, »Tigers in Red Weather« (2005), also drew international notice. In 2010, Padel published her first novel, »Where the Serpent Lives«, which depicts poaching from the perspective of the affected animals. In 2012, her book of poetry and prose, »The Mara Crossing« (published in US as »On Migration: Dangerous Journeys and the Living World« (2014), artfully wove together nature, science, and poetry. Her most recent collection »Learning to Make an Oud in Nazareth« (2014) is a meditation on the Middle East, conflict and creativity.
Among the many awards received for her work are the Research Prize of the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation (2003) and First Prize in the UK National Poetry Competition. She is the only person to be a Fellow of both The Royal Society of Literature and of the Zoological Society of London. She lives in London, where she teaches poetry at King’s College.