John M. Ridland (1933–2020)
John M. Ridland was born in London in 1933, of Scottish ancestry, but lived most of his life in California. He defined himself as an Anglo-Californian immigrant. He received a PhD in English Literature at Claremont Graduate School in 1964. While pursuing his doctoral studies, he started teaching writing and literature at the English Department and the College of Creative Studies at the University of California, Santa Barbara, which remained his base for forty-three years. He retired as a Professor Emeritus in 2004.
He published numerous books and chapbooks, including Ode on Violence (1969), In the Shadowless Light (1978), Elegy for My Aunt (1982), Palms: Six Ballads
(1993), A Brahms Card Ballad (2007), Happy in an Ordinary Thing (2013), A Lincolniad: An Epic Poem Honoring the Memory of President Abraham Lincoln (2014), Epitome and Epiphany (2017), and Mountain Music (2018), among many others. Interestingly, A Brahms Card Ballad was published in Hungarian translation (Ballada Brahms névjegyére. Válogatott versek) by Európa Press three years before it was published by Dowitcher Press in California in 2007. His poems were also published in various journals, including Poetry, The Atlantic, Harper’s, The Hudson Review, The Dark Horse, Spectrum, The Nation, New Zealand Books, Quadrant, River Styx, Solo, Askew, Parnassus, Sewanee Review, and Per Contra. With his New Zealand-born wife Muriel, he wrote And Say What He Is: The Life of a Special Child (1975). They have two living children and three grandchildren.
Ridland translated widely. He published translations of the Middle English masterpiece Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, as well as single volumes of the Hungarian poets Sándor Petőfi, Sándor Márai, and Miklós Radnóti. In 1999, Corvina Press published his verse translation of Petőfi’s folk epic János Vitéz as John the Valiant, with thirty illustrations by Péter Meller. The volume earned him the Gold Medal of the Árpád Academy in Cleveland, Ohio, and the 2010 Bálint Balassi Memorial Sword Award in Budapest, Hungary. With Peter V. Czipott he translated a volume of poems by Sándor Márai, The Withered World (Alma Classics, London, 2013) and another by Miklós Radnóti, All That Still Matters at All (New American Press, 2014).
He read from John the Valiant in the Los Angeles area, at the Hungarian Embassy in Washington, the Hungarian Cultural Centre in London, and the Hungarian Community Centre in Melbourne, Australia, where he also read excerpts and was interviewed on both the Australian Broadcasting Corporation and Australian SBS (Special Broadcasting Service). He was also interviewed on the Voice of America. In 2017 he was inducted as ‘Mid-Coast Literary Treasure’. He passed away on 29 January 2020.