inscapade   Tessa Ransford OBE, Hon.DUniv (Paisley), MA, Dip Ed
Poetry Practitioner and Adviser
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Tessa Ransford : Photograph by Mike Knowles
Photograph by Mike Knowles
Bio-Bibliographical statement
( Updated October 2015)

Tessa Ransford was born in India, educated in Scotland and lived all her adult life in Scotland apart from eight years working in Pakistan in the 1960s.

She published many books of poems starting in the mid-seventies, the most recent being A Good Cause, from Luath Press, Edinburgh, 2015.

Tessa led a busy working life as founder/director of the Scottish Poetry Library from when it opened in 1984 until after its establishment in new premises in 1999, as founder/organiser of the School of Poets poetry workshop (1981-99) and as editor of Lines Review poetry magazine from 1988 until its final issue, number 144 in 1998. Poems, essays and articles have been published in many magazines and anthologies and in translation. She continued to work as a freelance poetry adviser and practitioner, with special interest in relating poetry to those working creatively in other fields.

Tessa was a fellow of The Royal Literary Fund (working since 2001 at the Centre for Human Ecology in Edinburgh and again - 2006-2008 - at Queen Margaret University). She set up the Callum Macdonald Memorial Award to encourage the publishing of poetry in pamphlets. It organizes an annual Christmas pamphlet fair with the support of the National Library of Scotland. She was president of International PEN, Scottish Centre, as from September 2003 to the end of 2006 and the commencement of its 80th anniversary year.

Tessa died on the 2nd September 2015.


Association for Scottish Literary Studies (Honorary Member)
Centre for Human Ecology, Edinburgh (Fellow)
Institute of Contemporary Scotland (Honorary Fellow)
Saltire Society (Honorary Member)
Scottish Library Association (Honorary Member)
Campaign Against the Arms Trade
Edinburgh Peace and Justice Centre
Society of Authors
Society of Friends


Scottish Arts Council Writer's Bursary 2010
Honorary Doctorate of Paisley University (DUniv) 2003
Royal Literary Fund Writing Fellow / Project Fellow (2001 - 2008)
Society of Authors, Travelling Scholarship 2001
OBE 'for services to the Scottish Poetry Library' (New Year Honours 2000)
Howard Sergeant Award for services to poetry 1989
Heritage Society of Scotland annual award 1996
Scottish Arts Council Book Award 1980
Scottish Arts Council Writer's Bursary 1979
First prize in jubilee competition of the Scottish Association for the Speaking of Verse (now Poetry Association Scotland) 1974


Made in Scotland, poems and evocations of Holyrood Park with photographs by Michael Knowles, Luath Press 2014
Don�t mention this to anyone, poems by Tessa and calligraphy by Jila Peacock, Luath press, 2012 (ISBN 1-908373-18-0)
Rug of a thousand colours, Tessa Ransford and Iyad Hayatleh, Luath Press, Edinburgh, 2012, ISBN 978-1-908373-24-3
Poems and Angels, Wisdomfield, Edinburgh, 2010
Not Just Moonshine, new and selected poems, Luath Press, Edinburgh, 2008
Truth and Beauty, Continuing Enlightenment in Scotland series, number two, Netherbow Chapbooks, 2008
Conversations with Scottish Writers, No.3: Tessa Ransford.
        Fras publications, The Bookshop by the station, Blair Atholl, Perthshire, PH18 5SG
Sonnet Selection with eight Rilke lyrics translated Akros Publications, 2007
Shades of Green (poems on environmental themes selected from the sequence 'Shades of Green').
        Akros Publications, 2005
The Nightingale Question: five poets from Saxony, edited and translated by Tessa Ransford.
        Shearsman Books, Exeter, 2004
Noteworthy Selection, Akros Publications 2002
Natural Selection, Akros Publications 2001
Indian Selection, Akros Publications 2000
Scottish Selection, Akros Publications 1998 (reissued 2001)
When it works it feels like Play, Ramsay Head Press 1998
Medusa Dozen and Other Poems, Ramsay Head Press 1994
Seven Valleys, Ramsay Head Press 1991
A Dancing Innocence, Macdonald Publishers, Edinburgh 1988
Shadows from the Greater Hill, Ramsay Head Press, 1987
Fools and Angels, Ramsay Head Press 1984
Light of the Mind, Ramsay Head Press 1980
While it is yet Day, Quarto Press 1977
Poetry of Persons, Quarto Press 1976


2010: Reviews of Not Just Moonshine appeared in Northwords Now and The Eildon Tree: PDF file with reviews of Not Just Moonshine.

The Edinburgh Companion to Contemporary Scottish Literature. Edinburgh University Press. 2007.
Ed. Berthold Schoene.

From: Christopher Whyte. 'Twenty-one Collections for the Twenty-first Century', p.79.

...Noteworthy Poems (2002) by Tessa Ransford cover the entire range of her career. Consistently illuminating postscripts highlight the rich interconnections between poetry, reading and experience. What Ransford says of 'Sacred City' is applicable to her work as a whole: ' The language is of declaration or statement. Others may disagree with the stance taken, but it is not presented as a debating point. It is taken without apology and is authoritative' (Ransford 2002:37). A poem in terzinas, a sestina , and an Alcaic ode carefully transmuted form the Greek with unobtrusive precision show Ransford' s lively interest in form, while 'A Poem About a Concrete Poem' embodies the vision which gave birth, after nearly two decades, to the outstanding building by Malcolm Fraser which now houses the Scottish Poetry Library. 'Not in a Garden' sets three agonies alongside one another, without sensationalism or any attempt at ranking: of the self-frustrating poet, of Christ, and of a Kurdish woman refugee. Unashamedly intellectual in its approach, Ransford's work acknowledges no limitations of gender and is about as far as one could get from conventional expectations of 'women's poetry'. That it should so far have found a limited circle of readers is a matter for speculation.

Article about Tessa's poetry published in "ZED 2 0", NUMBER 22, AUTUMN 2007. (Akros Publications)

Light of the Mind, Ramsay Head Press 1980 (won a Scottish Arts Council Book Award)
'This is a remarkably good volume of poems, in the broadest sense religious, often mystical, accomplished in technique, clear and incisive in impression. For their stature they depend not on richness of ambiguity, but on chiselled phrasing, breadth of implication, perennial truth of subject matter.' Peter Malekin (English department Durham Univeristy) in The Teilhard (de Chardin) Review

Fools and Angels, Ramsay Head Press 1984
'I ended with a sense of excitement and the deep satisfaction of finding an independent voice.' Nancy Gish in Chapman 40

Shadows from the Greater Hill, Ramsay Head Press 1987
'Tessa Ransford takes a general sensibility to quality specificity, she involves process rather than measurements, flow over stocks, she tests conceptual abilities over empirical ones and she examines the world not as a series of isolated causal relationships but as a mesh of interrelated phenomena experiencing many possible scenarios for movement and change.' Alan Riach, Cencrastus

'In my own reading about the place I have unearthed comparable pleasures only in Stevenson's Picturesque Old Edinburgh. Nothing else gets close. The book's charm is a federation of simplicities.' James Crumley in Edinburgh Evening News

A Dancing Innocence, Edinburgh: Macdonald Publishers 1988
'Like Rilke, on whom she comments in her 'Annunciations', she is drawn to the light "with its source in daily things"; her poetry is full of rocks and water, flowers. The power of the earthly, the elemental, is set beside the power of art which "by its rays makes our days but passing shades" as much as any sun, and the book's own patterned dance leads steadily to a union of the elemental, the aesthetic and the spiritual.' Ali Smith in Chapman 57

'The book as a whole constitutes a cohesive amalgam, a continuation of the ongoing discourse on everything from philosophy and aesthetics to love and sexuality TR has been pursuing and developing from the outset.' Cencrastus

'I was very impressed by this book - a record of a caring, vulnerable consciousness, a long devotion to poetry, and a belief in its power.' Iain Crichton Smith in Scotland on Sunday

Seven Valleys, Ramsay Head Press 1991
'From whatever angle one approaches Seven Valleys it is without doubt an heroic piece of writing. A poem which runs to fifty pages requires a commitment from the author which must be returned in kind by the reader. What is certain is that it is a book which deserves to be read.' Pat Morrissey in Scottish Literary Journal

'In Seven Valleys Tessa Ransford offers her readers sustenance, a spiritual journey through a gentle, intelligent poetry of ideas.' Elizabeth Burns in The Scotsman

'Tessa Ransford's Seven Valleys has an intellectual stringency mellowed by a finely tuned ear for rhythm and cadence.' Hayden Murphy in the Times Educational Supplement

'I felt my stomach heave, almost physically, when I read her description of a journey across the Minch on the old "Sheila".' James Shaw Grant in Stornoway Gazette

Medusa Dozen and other poems, Ramsay Head Press 1994
'"Carried Away" would make a splendid rejoinder to the injunction "don't get carried away". What lifts the poem is attentiveness of a very wide range, and great technical accomplishment: the management of pace by broken lines is indeed thrilling, notably because the central image is of navigating metaphorical seas of daft emotion. The variation of relation between respective half-lines, rhythmic, visual, juxtaposing contrasting statements, is part of a stunning work. "Transverberation" is a series of sonnets, each beginning with a reprise of the one previous. It resembles a set of musical variations, each one modulating in the direction of the key with which the next one begins. The poems' unity of material, temperament and reference, distinguish TR as a very considerable poet indeed.' Robert Calder in Scottish Literary Journal

'The sense you are left with after reading 'Medusa Dozen' is that of the enlightened mind at work, at both art and the problems of the world, rich with native wit, keen to connect and transform.' Ali Smith in Cencrastus

'The dramatic complexity of the "Medusa Dozen" thirteen-poem sequence faithfully realises the Blakean 'progression through contraries' quoted in an introductory note. The subject allows the poet to explore various oppositions, along a basically gender divide.' Basil Du Toit in Lines Review

When it Works it Feels like Play, Ramsay Head Press, 1998
'A volume filled with carefully crafted passion, with real art and thought and questing intelligence, verse well beyond facile or fashionable word-play: poetry that matters.' Catherine Lockerbie in The Scotsman

'Something of how Ransford sees herself as a poet is suggested in "The Poet as Woman". "The poet as woman must write trustingly,/ aroused mentally and lustingly." The final line blazes with defiance: "mind that joy: it is a tree on fire." The poem makes it clear that intellect is just as crucial as emotion to the imagination of the poet.' Mario Relich in Z20 no 12

'These poems speak to women and men alike and beneath their everyday surface scenarios is the philosophical questioning found in all Ransford's poetry.' Margery McCulloch in Cencrastus

Indian Selection, Akros Publications 2000
This pamplet won Tessa a Society of Authors Travelling Scholarship 2001.

'The debt Scottish literature owes Tessa Ransford for establishing the Scottish Poetry Library is immense. Sometimes it distracts from the quality of her own poetry. Born in India, she draws from five volumes and adds a number of uncollected poems in this evocative and stylish publication.' Hayden Murphy in The Herald

Home |  Biography |  Copyright and Permissions |  Poetry postcards |  Sample poems
Pamphlet poetry |  The Callum Macdonald Memorial Award |  Poems from previous collections