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Graham Lyttle

At the end of a successful career as a software engineer for the manufacturing industry, Graham Lyttle could have drifted quietly into retirement.

Instead, the computer system architect turned his attention to the human condition through poetry and literature. One week he was designing production systems for anything from butchering carcasses to assembling photocopiers, the next he was a fresher in the University of Worcester’s Institute of Humanities and Creative Arts.

“My job was abstract and intellectual and I wanted to do something different with my mind. I chose literature because language is not only a mode of communication, it is a repository of human knowledge, emotion and experience,” he says.

Four years later at the age of 69, Graham is collecting an upper second BA honours degree in English Literary Studies and has been awarded the prestigious Ledbury Poetry Festival prize. It would have taken three years but for Graham’s need to take a year off to have treatment for colon cancer. An optimist by nature, he sees the illness as part of the learning process, helping him to see life from a different perspective.

“The course was a completely new direction for me. I read only to gather information and thought poetry was for pubescent girls,” he says. “I was a ‘classic’ male in my approach to literature. No way would I have thought that I would end up getting a poetry prize.

“Now, I recognise poetry as the ultimate form of expression. Writing poetry about my experience of having cancer was very cathartic, it enabled me to fix in my memory the feelings and attitudes I had while confronting cancer and the possibility of my life being shortened.”

Though there were other mature people on the course, many of his fellow students were teenagers or in their early 20s.

He says: “Far from feeling uncomfortable, I was privileged to study alongside young people growing up in a different time and with new ideas.”