David Morphet was born in a Yorkshire Pennine town in 1940, and spent his formative years in a valley landscape rising steeply from river, fields and woollen mills, to hill farms and moorland. This, and the hill-farm landscape around Ingleborough and Pen-y-Ghent – to which his ancestors migrated from Scotland in the Seventeenth Century – have left a deep mark which can be seen in poems such as ‘Moorland’, ‘Swallow-Holes’, ‘Chapel-le-Dale’, ‘Intrusion’, and ‘Silence at Briggflatts’.
At Cambridge, studying English, French and Italian literature, he read Dante with C S Lewis and the Metaphysical poets with Donald Davie. He co-edited the literary magazine Delta, which had associations, amongst others, with Peter Redgrove, Philip Hobsbaum and Ted Hughes; and published a number of poems in Delta.
Joining the British Diplomatic Service, he spent three years in the Middle East and was later part of the UK Delegation to the Special Session of the United Nations held in New York in 1967 following the Arab-Israel Six Day War. He visited Moscow in the team of the British Foreign Secretary when Britain was seeking to promote, together with Russia, a moratorium on bombing in Vietnam. Fluent in Spanish, he served for three years at the British Embassy in Madrid. Several of his poems draw on his diplomatic experience, not least in Spain, for which he has a particular affection – see for instance ‘Nightfall at Pedraza’, ‘Sonnet for García Lorca’, ‘Summer in Cadiz’, and ‘Homage to Gerald Brenan’.
The Yom Kippur War of 1973 led to a fourfold rise in the price of oil and deep concern about the impact of this on the world economy. At this time, he joined the UK Department of Energy which was established to face these problems, and to oversee development of the oil and gas reserves of the North Sea. He was part of the UK team which negotiated the formation of the International Energy Agency. During his time in the Department, he represented the UK on a number of international energy bodies, and was UK Governor at the International Atomic Energy Agency at the time of Chernobyl.
In 1989, he joined an international company as development director, moving in 1997 to establish a new body for the privatised railway industry, as Director General of The Railway Forum. He has also sat on the board of power companies.
In the 1970s, he was a founder member of a national charity in the field of mental health (now RETHINK) and was its chairman for several years. He continues to take an interest in the problems of the mentally ill, and insights into these can be found in his work, including ‘Back Ward’, ‘He Waits’, ‘Ward Visit’, and ‘He has turned within’ .
He has also written and lectured on aspects of Victorian journalism. A full-length article on “Political Comment in the Quarterly Review after Croker: Gladstone, Salisbury, Jennings” appeared in Victorian Periodicals Review Vol 36(2) of Summer 2003.
He has also edited a substantial work on a Cambridge college – St John’s College Cambridge – Excellence and Diversity – published by Third Millennium International in 2007 (ISBN 1 903942 56 X).
From 2005-09 he was a Board member of Magma Poetry and edited Magma 39 (Winter 2007 issue).
His poems have appeared in various literary magazines including, in translation, the Russian literary journal Noviy Mir. His poem Official Visit has been recorded by the Poetry Library and is available from the Library’s website.
Six of the poems from A Sequence from the Cyclades have been set to music for soprano and string quartet by the composer Adrian Rickard.
Victorian Web has a page on him
He is married with three grown up children, and lives with his wife Sarah in London.