About Philip Gross

Philip writes brilliantly imaginative poetry about places, people and subjects which at first seem ordinary but which he reveals to be strange, a little bit magical or scary, full of surprise and hidden depths.

He loves mysteries. In ‘House of Air’ he tells us about a house which turns out to be unlike any we have ever known – there are no doors or windows and the floors become invisible, much to the postman’s surprise!

Philip makes us wonder what is real and what is imaginary, and look closely at the world while paying attention to its sounds and sights. He plays with the way in which people usually behave until they start to seem like aliens (listen out for the Daleks!) and creates landscapes where they have horns or are ‘as baggy as toads’. In lots of his poems children and the grown-ups behave very badly, losing their temper or forgetting their manners.

Philip’s reading brings music to the very front, allowing the rhymes and alliteration to jump out and also changing the pace and tone of his voice to startle us in moments of anger, or make us slow down and feel lulled into quiet thought.

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One of Philip’s skills is to make the places, people and events we take for granted seem unfamiliar so he helps us see them freshly and differently.

His poems are beautifully crafted with a kind of music underlying the readings.

Philip uses rhyme and half rhyme, alliteration and a number of unusual word constructions, for example in ‘Daughter of the Sea’, where the sea is a ‘trickle husher, swish and rusher’ – the sounds mimic the waves breaking on the shore.

He mirrors the stories in his poems in the way they appear on the page, with image which make the subject clear to us. Some poems have a nursery rhyme feel to them. Others are more like myths and fables.

Philip plays tricks with our understanding.  He describes the poem ‘Dirge for Unwin’ as ‘completely negative’ but there is a very clever twist which changes our view of Unwin, who turns out to have had a secret life, even if so many words to do with him begin with ‘un-’.

Philip was born in 1952 in north Cornwall.  His dad was a refugee from Estonia.

He writes poetry for children and adults and has won lots of big prizes. He also writes plays. Philip works with other artists like muscicians and dancers.

Philip began writing in junior school and he runs workshops for adults and children. He thinks that good writing for young people is as important as good writing for adults. He has lots of experience as a teacher and an examiner.

Philip thinks that the best thing a poem can do for its writer is surprise them.

Philip's recording was made on December 14th 2011 at the School of Cultural and Creative Industries in Cardiff, South Wales. It was produced by Richard Carrington.

Featured in the Archive

Selected Bibliography

Manifold Manor, Faber And Faber Juvenile, 1989

Scratch City, Faber and Faber, 1995

Off Road To Everywhere, Salt Publishing, 2010


1991 Arts Council Bursary, for The Song of Gail and Fludd

1994 The Signal Poetry Award, for The All-Nite Cafe

2010 Children's Poetry Bookshelf Choice, for Off Road to Everywhere

2010 CLPE Award for Children's Poetry, for Off Road To Everwhere

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