Adrian Mitchell

Image by Caroline Forbes

Adrian Mitchell

b. 1932 d. 2008

a voice as welcome as Lear's fool... Humour that can stick deep and stay funny. - Ted Hughes

William Blake says: Everything that Lives is Holy

Adrian Mitchell

In My Two Small Fists

Adrian Mitchell


Life Is a Walk Across a Field

Adrian Mitchell


Elephant Eternity

Adrian Mitchell


A Flying Song

Adrian Mitchell

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About Adrian Mitchell

Adrian Mitchell (1932 - 2008) was a hugely prolific writer, the author of a great number of novels, plays and poems, for adults and, increasingly, for children - he wrote that "more and more of my time is spent writing for children. This is partly because I have six grandchildren." He started his own literary career as a child, writing his first play at the age of ten, and went on to be Chairman of the University Poetry Society while studying at Oxford. He has also worked as a journalist - the first one to print an interview with the Beatles - and a screenwriter for film and TV, and is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature.

Mitchell was committed to a form of poetry that welcomes as many people as possible - he was, perhaps, best known for saying that "Most people ignore most poetry because most poetry ignores most people." Thus his work deals with recognisable subjects in clear, modern language, and can revel in strong rhythms, drawn as often from the blues and pop music as from the poetic canon. 'In My Two Small Fists', for example, makes a litany of remembered treasures that include "prickly heather / cowrie shells / and a seagull's feather".

His commitment to pacifist politics was equally strong; he first came to public attention as a poet during protests against the Vietnam War, and was appointed by Red Pepper as the Shadow Poet Laureate - poems such as 'Playground' and 'Roundabout' were written in the wake of the invasion of Iraq, which took place only weeks before this recording was made. The small human story of the first of these poems and the big-picture take of the second demonstrate the range of his vision, and the sardonic rhymes of 'Playground' show his ability with humour as a weapon against oppressive forces. Ted Hughes described him as "a voice as welcome as Lear's fool... Humour that can stick deep and stay funny."

Years of public protest and performing his work honed his performance, so that he rails, cajoles and sometimes comes close to song in these poems, all in the service of making them as open as possible, and to be, as Angela Carter described him, a "joyous, acrid and demotic tumbling lyricist Pied Piper determinedly singing us away from catastrophe."

His recording was made on 3 June 2003 at his home in London and was produced by Richard Carrington.

Interviews and other readings

Adrian Mitchell interview

In this interview Adrian Mitchell, the UK's alternative Poet Laureate...

Additional material and useful links

The Poem Show: Funny Poem Special

On the Poetry Trust website, this special edition of the Poem Show celebrates our wittiest, most entertaining poets. Listen to the late, great Adrian Mitchell read his famous poem of adolescence,...

Selected bibliography

Tell Me Lies, Bloodaxe Books 2009


Umpteen Pockets, Hachette 2009


Daft as a Doughnut, Orchard Books 2004


Dancing In The Street (editor), Orchard Books 1999


Balloon Lagoon, Orchard Books 1997


The Orchard Book of Poems (editor), Orchard Books 1995


All My Own Stuff, Simon and Schuster 1991


Strawberry Drums (editor), Macdonald 1989 - out of print

Nothingmas Day, Allison and Busby, 1984 - out of print


1961 Eric Gregory Award 1961 Eric Gregory Award

Prize website

1966 PEN Translation Prize

Prize website


Adrian Mitchell

Adrian Mitchell Reading from his Poems

1A Flying Song

2Icarus Schmicarus

3My Mother and Father or Why I Began to Hate War

4Remember Suez?

5Veteran with a Head Wound

6The Dust

7Nostalgia - Now Threepence Off

8Fifteen Million Plastic Bags

9Song about Mary

10Elephant Eternity

11A Year Passes, as Years Do

12Life Is A Walk Across A Field

13My Friend the Talking Elevator of Tokyo

14In My Two Small Fists

15to all our friends



18What to Do if You Meet Nijinsky

19The Ballad of the Familiar Stranger

20Tissue Paper Flowers

21Not Fleeing but Flying

22The Last Goofs on Earth say Sorry to their Favourite Star

23The Famous Battle



26Pour Soul

27Thanks to my Dog in an Hour of Pain


29King Lear's Fool Waves Goodbye

30William Blake says: Every Thing That Lives Is Holy

A tour of the Archive with Louise Joy

Since I spend much of my time rooting around in the eighteenth century, this is where I headed first. Hearing poems...

Featured Guided Tours

Books by Adrian Mitchell