Dr Laura Kilbride, Peterhouse




Biographical Information

I joined Peterhouse as a Research Fellow in 2015 following a year as a College Lecturer at Murray Edwards College, University of Cambridge.

Research Interests

Why did poetry stop rhyming? As a poet and critic who revels in the music of poetry, I wanted to know more about why free verse happened. My research took me back to A. C. Swinburne, the Wagner of nineteenth-century verse, against whose musicality many early twentieth-century poets were reacting. But in attempting to recover Swinburne for a contemporary audience, I discovered something else: what the modernists objected to was his poetry’s religiosity. It was too like chanting, prayer, siren song. That Swinburne was an atheist did not seem to register. I began to wonder: could there be a link between free verse and secularism?

I started to question my own assumptions as a cultural critic. I’d accepted Raymond Williams idea that culture comes to act as a stand-in for religion. However, as a poet, rooted in practice, something didn’t add up: if poetry could replace religious practice, shouldn’t there be something common to both which made them seem like a plausible swap?

I’m exploring these questions in a book-length creative-critical essay The Church of Blake and Shelley, comparing the stylistic techniques—like rhythm, rhyme and voice—of Gerard Manley Hopkins, a Victorian priest who wrote poems, and T. S. Eliot, a modernist who thought all poets were priests. Drawing on the insights of cultural history, cognitive psychology and my own training as a verse-historian, I’m discovering how different poetic styles can induce different mind states, to determine how and why readers lost their faith in the music of poetry.

My first book, Swinburne’s Style: An Experiment in Verse History (Oxford, 2018) invites readers to appreciate the astonishing feats which Swinburne’s poetry pulls off. My aim was to reconstruct the contexts we would need to hear Swinburne after free verse. This novel method, which I call ‘verse history’, had me tracking manuscripts across the US and UK, also taking me to Pavia and Paris, where I studied Italian, French, Latin and Ancient Greek in an effort to keep--if not up, then at least within sight-- of Swinburne's incredible technical mastery of the poetic repertoire.


Selected Publications


Swinburne’s Style: An Experiment in Verse History. (Oxford: Legenda (Imprint of the Modern Humanities Research Association), 2018).



Volta (Cambridge: Equipage, 2019)

In the Square (Scarborough MA: Punch Press, 2014)

Errata (Dorset: tipped press, 2011)

My poems have appeared in: The Caught Habits of Language: An Entertainment for W.S. Graham for him having reached One Hundred (Donut Press, 2018) ; Dear World and Everyone In It: New Poetry in the UK (Bloodaxe, 2013); The Chicago Review; Clinic Presents; Crisis Inquiry; The Junket; No Prizes; P N Review; Scree; Splinter; THAT MERCILESS AND MERCENARY GANG OF COLD-BLOODED SLAVES AND ASSASINS, CALLED, IN THE ORDINARY PROSTITUTION OF LANGUAGE, FRIENDS; The Paper Nautilus; Religion and Literature journal and other venues.



Recent reviews have appeared in the Times Literary Supplement; Critical Quarterly; Cambridge Quarterly; and Religion and Literature [forthcoming].

‘‘Introduction: On Grace in Poetry’ [Joint Guest Editor for forum, part of special issue on Grace and Poetry] Religion and Literature 49.2 (Spring 2019): 224-7.

‘What I do is Me’: On Grace and Sprung Rhythm [short article for special issue of Religion and Literature] Religion and Literature 49.2 (Spring 2019): 252-60.

‘Introduction: On Logos’ Religion and Literature 49.1 (Summer 2018):1-5 [Guest Editor for mini-forum introducing essays by Romana Huk and Catherine Pickstock in a special issue on the poetry of David Jones]

‘‘A Renouveau of English Prosody’ Rereading Swinburne’s Atalanta in Calydon’, Essays in Criticism, 68.1 (Jan 2018): 25–53.

‘Poems and Ballads at 150: Introduction’ [Guest Editor] The Journal of Pre-Raphaelite Studies, 26 (Fall 2017): 5-9.

‘The Catholic New Left: Language, Liturgy and Literature in Slant Magazine, 1964-1970’, Renascence: Essays on Values in Literature 69.3 (2017): 174-185. [For which essay I was awarded the Simon Dentith Memorial Prize, The Raymond Williams Society postgraduate essay competition for work grounded in the tradition of cultural materialism]

‘‘The Pre-Raphaelite School’: Recent Approaches’, review of the state of the field in Literature Compass, 12.11 (November 2015): 615-626.

‘Real Games with Books’: On Anna Mendelssohn and Ezra Pound’, in News from Afar: Ezra Pound and Some Contemporary British Poetries ed. Richard Parker (London, 2014: Shearsman) pp. 185-194.

 ‘Going for Broke: Tom Raworth and Lyric’, in The Cambridge Quarterly 38.4 (2009): 368-387.