Born in London in 1933, his family immigrated to Pasadena when he was two years old. He attended Swarthmore College, and then joined the U.S. Army for two years in Puerto Rico. It was in graduate school at Berkeley that he met his wife, Muriel Murray, also a graduate student. He received his Ph.D. from Claremont Graduate School in 1964.
Professor Ridland taught for over 40 years at UC Santa Barbara, retiring in 2005. He was one of the founding faculty of our College of Creative Studies and a professor in our English Department, focusing on Robert Frost studies. As a research professor, John specialized in poetry and translation. His poems were widely published, including in The Hudson Review, The Atlantic, and Harper’s. His books include 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). With his wife, Muriel, he wrote And Say What He Is: The Life of a Special Child (1975). In retirement he continued to publish multiple works, both books of poetry and translations.
Professor Ridland was widely recognized for his translations of Hungarian literature, most notably the epic poem Janos Vitez (John the Valiant). In 2002 the Arpad Academy awarded him their gold medal, and in 2010 he was recognized with the Balint Balassi Sword Award, an engraved ceremonial sword bequeathed by the Consul-General of Hungary to the United States. Also recognized locally, in 2017 John was inducted as a “Mid-Coast Literary Treasure” by the Ventura County Arts Council. He rendered Sir Gawain and the Green Knight into modern verse, published in a beautiful hand press edition, illustrated by Artemio Rodriguez. He was at work on a poetic translation of The Odyssey at the time of his death.
On campus, Professor Ridland served for over 25 years as the faculty adviser for the Spectrum literary publication. In 1993 he was a Visiting Professor at the University of Melbourne, and he then served three years as the Director of the Education Abroad Program in Australia. Muriel was born in New Zealand, and they shared a fondness for the literature of the area.
Professor Ridland was a prolific writer, and loved for his sense of both the profound and the humorous. We extend our deepest condolences to his wife, Muriel; their children, Jenny and Michael; and to all of his family, friends, and colleagues around the world. Our campus flag was lowered in John’s honor on March 4, 2020.