Douglas Reid Skinner South African poet

About Douglas Reid Skinner

As a writer, I feel one is always an apprentice, no matter how experienced or technically proficient one might become. Humility before the art is vital, fundamental. Without it, you learn nothing.

(in Exchanges, 1991)

Douglas Reid Skinner has published six collections, most recently Liminal (uHlanga, 2017), and one new & selected poems, Heaven (2014). He has translated (on his own or with a co-translator) from Afrikaans, French, Hebrew, Italian and Portuguese, most recently: with Marco Fazzini, The Secret Ambition: Selected Poems of Valerio Magrelli (African Sun Press, 2016); and the English section of poems by Marco Fazzini translated from the Italian, 21 Poesie/Poemas/Poems (Amos Edizioni, Italy, 2017). He is co-editor of Stanzas poetry magazine (Cape Town) and English editor and translator for the AVBOB Poetry Project.

Personal history

Douglas Reid Skinner was born in Upington in 1949 in the then Cape Province of South Africa. He went to school in Grahamstown, Kimberley and East London.

After graduating from Selborne College in the mid-Sixties, he worked briefly in accounting and retail before attending Rhodes University in Grahamstown, South Africa, working in retail and on a gold mine to pay his way. In the early 1970s, he worked in drilling, mining and prospecting in the Northern Cape for a number of years, followed by a year in retail sales and professional acting in Cape Town.

In 1973, he joined the IT department of a major insurance group, specialising in programming and systems analysis, before moving to London in 1974, where he worked in systems analysis, design and programming for four years.

In 1978, he moved to New York and worked in banking IT for two and a half years before relocating to San Francisco, where he worked in IT, project management and AI for a major US bank for four years. During this time his first collection was published.

In 1984, he returned to Cape Town. A year of work in IT in Johannesburg in 1985 (and a second collection) was followed by a return to the Cape, engaging in various editing and publishing activities, marrying and becoming a parent in 1988, during which year his third collection appeared.

In 1992, he and his family returned to London. He continued to be self-employed in a variety of ways, and to varying degrees, in: freelance design, sub-editing and layout; trading in and writing on fine wine; labouring, decorating, brickwork pointing and building maintenance. He has published four more books of poems and is co-editor of the Cape Town-based poetry magazine, Stanzas.

At Poetry Vicenza, 2016

At the Pig and Whistle in 1987. From left to right: Jack Cope, Douglas Reid Skinner, Mike Nicol, Michael King, Stephen Watson, Patrick Cullinan and Roy Macnab

Writing history

Since 1967, he has seen himself as primarily a writer regardless of whatever else he has done to earn a living.

1968–9 First published in the Grahamstown newspaper, Grocott’s Mail, then in student magazines, winning the university’s Heather Drummond Memorial Prize for Poetry.
1973 First published in literary journal (Contrast).
1974–pres. Poems published in South Africa, United Kingdom, America, Italy and France (including American Poetry Review, Carapace, Comparative Criticism, New Coin, New Contrast, Outposts, TriQuarterly, Verse)
1974–pres. Poetry readings in South Africa (Cape Town, Durban, Franschoek, Grahamstown, Johannesburg, McGregor); UK (London, Norfolk, Winchelsea); USA (San Francisco); and Italy (Università Ca’ Foscari, Venice 2014, 2016 and 2018) and Vicenza Poetry Festival Italy (2016 and 2018).
1981–pres. Collections published: Reassembling World (1981, Mantis/David Philip); The House in Pella District (1986, David Philip); The Unspoken (1988, The Carrefour Press); The Middle Years (1993, The Carrefour Press); Blue Rivers (2011, Snailpress/Crane River); Heaven: New and Selected Poems (2014, Left Field Poetry); Liminal (2017, uHlanga).
1985–pres. Prose anthologised in South Africa (Four South African Poets; Momentum: On Recent South African Writing; Exchanges: South African Writing in Transition; in Italy: Incroci di Poeisia Contemporanea; The Saying of It: Conversations on Literature and Ideas with 13 Contemporary English-Language Poets (M Fazzini, Edizioni ETS).
1986–pres. Poems anthologised in South Africa, United Kingdom, America, Italy and France.
1986–89 Compiler and writer of ‘The Contemporary Muse’ for SABC, a half-hour of poetry on the ‘A’ programme (thirty-two programmes in all).
1987–pres. Book reviews published in South Africa, United Kingdom and United States (including Daily Telegraph, PN Review, World Literature Today).
1988–pres. Translations published in South Africa: Approximations: translations from Hebrew (with Israel Ben-Yosef , The Carrefour Press, SA); The Secret Ambition: selected poems, translated, with Marco Fazzini, from the Italian of Valerio Magrelli (African Sun Press, SA). Translations published in USA: Riding the Storm, translated from the Italian of Marco Fazzini (‘Hct! Press, USA); 24 Poems, translated from the Italian of Marco Fazzini (‘Hct! Press, USA). Translations published in Italy: 21 Poesie/Poemas/Poems, Marco Fazzini (Amos Edizioni, Italy).
1995–6 Joint-winner British Comparative Literature Association Open Translation Prize (for translations, with Marco Fazzini, of Valerio Magelli’s poems).
2015 Presented a paper on translation at Incroci di Poeisia Contemporanea at Università Ca’ Foscari, Venice.
2017 Interviewed for The Saying of It: Conversations on Literature and Ideas with 13 Contemporary English-Language Poets (Fazzini, Marco. 2017. Italy: Edizioni ETS)

Other history

1973–1986 IT: Programming, systems analysis and systems design for large corporations and banks in Cape Town, London, New York, San Francisco and Johannesburg.
1974–pres. Editing: guest editor of Contrast for one issue (1974); editor of Upstream (1987), New Contrast (1990–2) and South African Literary Review (1991–2); co-editor, Stanzas (2015–present).
1985–pres. Adjudicator: National Festival of the Arts Poetry Competition (1985); English Association Narrative Poem Competition (1987); English Association Poetry Competition (1991); Avbob National Poetry Competition (South Africa, 2017–ongoing).
1988–2017 Workshops: private poetry workshops (1988–1992); for UCT Adult Education Dept (1988–9); and for McGregor Poetry Festival (2016–7).
1988-pres. Publishing: founded The Carrefour Press (Cape Town), a literary imprint specialising in South African poetry, as well as literary essays, fiction and philosophy; founded Crane River, a literary imprint specialising in South African poetry; founded Left Field Poetry, a literary imprint specialising in South African poetry.
1995–2008 Design: Joint-founder, Athletic Intelligence (strategic athlete development, corporate & web identity); design & layout of Middlesex Tennis (county tennis magazine); design & layout of Hazelwood LTC (a centenary publication); support role for fc:tennis Tennis Academy (strategic planning and design of brochures, presentations, forms, photography); Childrens’ Shakespeare Company (design: identity, brochures, posters).
1998–2012 Wine: Founder, Crane River Fine Wines (private sales, specialist buying).