Charles Tomlinson

Image by Caroline Forbes

Charles Tomlinson

b. 1927

A master of his craft... his poems have the finality of form which you find only among the first rate - Donald Hall

Drawing Down the Moon

Charles Tomlinson


During Rain

Charles Tomlinson


A Rose for Janet

Charles Tomlinson


A Given Grace

Charles Tomlinson


Jessica Learned to Kiss

Charles Tomlinson

Previous Next

About Charles Tomlinson

Charles Tomlinson (b. 1927), since his first publication in 1951, has built a career that has seen more notice in the international scene than in his native England; this may explain, and be explained by, his international vision of poetry. The influence of American poetry, which is acknowledged in his introduction to the first poem on this CD, 'Above Manhattan', and his work as a translator from languages including Italian, Spanish and Russian, testify to that vision, as do his friends, who have included William Carlos Williams, Octavio Paz, Vasko Popa and Philippe Jaccottet. He also works as a critic, a university professor and an artist, and has been rewarded with the Bennett Award, the International Ennio Flaiano Prize and the International Attilio Bertolucci Poetry Award, plus membership of the American Academy of Arts & Sciences, and the British CBE.

The subjects of Tomlinson's work, however, range from the international to the most domestic of subjects. While 'Assassin' takes on the mind of the man who killed Trotsky, 'Jessica Learned to Kiss' is focused tightly on one deferred moment in his then-tiny granddaughter's life. There are signs of his sense of humour in 'After the Poetry Reading', a poem in which Tomlinson records that granddaughter disapproving of him putting her into his poem, but his tone is more usually that of a fascinated observer, and one who expects a similar delighted interest from his listener. This is perhaps shown best by the dual meaning of "reflections" in 'A Given Grace' - we are invited to look at two cups, which, although "common ware", either have or inspire "these rare reflections" on them. Even the speaker of 'Assassin', in the middle of his grisly task, finds himself ecstatically aware of surrounding details.

Tomlinson begins his reading with the words "In reading to you..." - of all the Poetry Archive recordings, this is one of the most intimate, and one of the most welcoming voices. His reading style is pitched beautifully to make it seem that he is animating the poems for us with the same concern for his audience as he shows in his introductions. What the Times Literary Supplement has called his "perfected style" proves here to be as much a part of his reading as of his writing.

His recording was made for The Poetry Archive on 9 March 2001 at his home in Gloucestershire and was produced by Richard Carrington.

Poetry Archive visitors might also like to know that sixty CDs featuring Charles Tomlinson reading his own poetry and translations, plus his dialogues and talks, are available for purchase. The recordings were made at Keele University. If you are interested, please contact Professor Richard Swigg:, 21 Keele Road, Newcastle-under-Lyme, Staffordshire, ST5 2JT. All proceeds from sales of the CDs go to Keele University.

Selected bibliography

New Collected Poems, Carcanet 2009


Cracks in the Universe, Carcanet 2006


Skywriting, Carcanet 2003


Luoghi Italiani, Bradipo Editions, Vicenza 2000

Vineyard Above the Sea, Oxford Poets / Carcanet Press...


Parole e acqua, Bradipo Editions, Vicenza 1997

Selected Poems 1955-97, Oxford University Press 1997


In Italia (bilingual), El tucan de Virgina / Editorial...

Poemas Portugueses (bilingual), Relogio D'Agua 1996


1998 Elected Fellow of American Academy of Arts and Sciences

Prize website

2003 New Criterion Poetry Prize Skywriting

Prize website

2004 Attilio Bertolucci Poetry Award

2001 Italian Premio Internationale Flaiano per la Poesia

1993 Bennett Award

Prize website

1979 Cholmondeley Award

Prize website

1974 Honorary Fellow, Queen's College, Cambridge

Prize website

1968 Frank O'Hara Prize

1961 Union League and Civic and Arts Poetry Award


Charles Tomlinson

Charles Tomlinson Reading from his Poems

1Above Manhattan


3Revolution, Piazza di Spagna

4To Vasko Popa in Rome

5Winter Journey I

6Winter Journey IV

7To My Daughter

8Jessica Learned to Kiss

9After the Poetry Reading

10Colloquy with a Grandchild

11A Given Grace

12A Rose for Janet


14Paring the Apple

15The Picture of J.T. in a Prospect of Stone

16John Mayhew, or The Allotment

17At Stoke

18Etruria Vale

19The Marl Pits



22Against Travel

23Las Trampas, U.S.A.


25A Death in the Desert

26Arroyo Hondo

27Mr. Brodsky


29On the Late Plane

30A Sense of Distance

31During Rain

32Drawing down the Moon

33The Door

Books by Charles Tomlinson