Christopher Southgate – Brief Biography
Christopher Southgate was born in 1953. He trained originally as a research biochemist, finishing a PhD at Cambridge in 1977 and subsequently doing a year’s research at the University of North Carolina. There he met an American singer and songwriter whom he married in 1981. This was the period during which he underwent a profound conversion to the Christian faith.
Between 1987-90 Chris went through the training taken by Anglican ordinands, and from 1990-96 he worked full-time with students in the Chaplaincy at Exeter University. From 1997-2001 he was part-time lay chaplain at Wonford Hospital in Exeter, specialising in mental-health chaplaincy.
In 2008 Chris published his much-praised study of the problem of suffering in evolution, The Groaning of Creation (Westminster John Knox Press). He has given papers and workshops on this topic in Australia, New Zealand, the USA, and Denmark, as well as Oxford, Cambridge, Durham and Edinburgh.
He has also given poetry readings in a wide range of places including King’s College, London, Sarum College, the Little Gidding Community and the Edinburgh Fringe. He toured the US and Canada in 2001 and 2006, and has read at New York University in 2007 and 2010. In 2015 he was much involved in the commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the death of TS Eliot. In 2016 he gave a workshop on the sestina at Columbia University, and also the Gowland Lecture, reflecting on the interaction of poetry with science and theology. He was awarded a Hawthornden Fellowship in 1999, and his sonnet ‘Patmos’ was nominated for a Pushcart Prize in 2002.
His most recent books of poetry
A Love and its Sounding: Explorations of T.S.Eliot (University of Salzburg, 1997)
[a verse biography of the poet, with three critical essays]
In a review Frances Young called this poem ‘a work of extraordinary originality and generative power’ (Reviews in Religion and Theology)
Beyond the Bitter Wind: Poems 1982-2000 (Shoestring Press, 2000)
Of this book Anne Stevenson wrote that: ‘It is Southgate’s passion, his poetry’s uncompromising quest for love at any cost, that brings to mind the poetry of George Herbert’ (Other Poetry). R.V. Bailey, writing in Envoi, commented that: ‘Beyond the Bitter Wind is a rich collection of eighteen years’ worth of poems… Southgate is a very fine poet…not nearly so well known as he ought to be.’
Easing the Gravity Field: poems of science and love (Shoestring Press, 2006)
‘a humorous, quietly celebratory, never didactic, tastefully loving, lucidly thoughtful poet….a book to be enjoyed in all ways’ (William Oxley, Stride);‘He writes of love, loss and faith with a scientist’s precision, and of astronomy, physics and biology with reverence and passion.’ (Frogmore Papers)
A Gash in the Darkness (Shoestring Press, 2012).
His most arresting – and disturbing – collection yet. ‘Southgate is a fine experienced poet, and a courageous thinker. A Gash in the Darkness is a kind of quality poetry one rarely encounters: tough stuff, well-crafted, dealing with the big themes of human experience with clear-sightedness, courage and not a little self-deprecating humour. The book itself is a manifestation of its title, full of those rare fleeting brilliant rays of sunlight that gash the darkness of modern life, that refuse despair.’ (Envoi)
Chasing the Raven (Shoestring 2016).
Thought by many to be his best collection yet, and certainly his most directly personal. Envoi wrote: ‘There are no cheap effects. [The poems] are strong stuff, … in conception and in craftsmanship. Wide-ranging in subject-matter, Southgate is also shrewd in observation and elegant in execution.’
Rain falling by the River (Canterbury, 2017).
This gathers up Chris’s spiritual poems, and adds some new reflections after thirty years’ pondering, on church and on prayer.
Chris’s stepson, Jac Copeland, is the owner and manager of the highly successful deli and cafe in Tiverton, ‘The Flying Pickle’.
Chris worships at his village church, Holy Trinity Drewsteignton, where he was baptized in 1954, and where he serves as Convenor of the Worship Planning Group