About Fergus Allen

Fergus Allen was born in London in 1921, of an Anglo-Irish father and an English mother. After childhood and Quaker schools in Ireland, he read engineering at Trinity College, Dublin, where he wrote light verse for the college magazine; he now regards this as useful training in the nuts and bolts of his craft. During the second world war, he moved to England to work as a civil engineer, eventually as Director of the Hydraulics Research Station, before his transfer into the Cabinet Office as a Whitehall civil servant. He ended his professional career as First Civil Service Commissioner.

Since retirement from the Civil Service he has published four collections: The Brown Parrots of Providencia (Faber 1993), Who goes there? (Faber 1996), Mrs Power looks over the Bay (Faber 1999) and Gas, Light and Coke ( Dedalus 2006).

Fergus Allen has described himself as a gloomy poet ("I wouldn't be a proper poet if I wasn't gloomy") but the severity of some of his work masks a glinting and glittering humour. In 'Flies and Nettles', his vision of the brevity of mankind's existence before the earth is taken over by flies and nettles is, in his reading, like an uncle terrifying the children with a horror story for bedtime. In The Lives of the Cousins, influenced like so much of his work by life in Ireland, he imagines the splendid world of his wealthy cousins as hinted at in black and white photographs. Then he mildly settles down to the reality of small-town Ireland and the solicitor's pink-cheeked secretary's reassuringly thick legs. This is not autobiographical or confessional- none of his work is so simple-but it does reflect his own wry and self-deprecating outlook on life, perfectly captured in his tone of voice as he reads the poem.

He adopts many masks; several of his poems are about living life as an outsider looking in. In 'Parental Guidance' the outsiderness is that of a child who was never prepared for the mystery of Mr Ganly ("genial over the porridge and haddock") having had noisy sex with Mrs Ganly the night before- audible through the child's bedroom wall. As the poem continues, this comedy of embarrassment turns into a chilling vision of himself watching life from a sterile room, hands enclosed in rubber gloves, drafting "a protocol of separation".

Beyond his memories of growing up in Ireland, his not-suffering-fools verbal precision, his delight in the ways words can work, Fergus Allen gives a truthful and compelling account of a long life lived with eyes open, musing on the oddity of things. His voice in these recordings is precise, almost schoolmasterly, with a touch of Irish blarney; he invites the listener to sit up straight and pay attention but not necessarily always to take him too seriously.

This recording was made on the 24th March, 2009 at the Audio Workshop, London and was produced by Richard Carrington.

Fergus Allen's Favourite Poetry Saying:

"The rule is that some eat figs while others watch" - José Saramago

Additional material and useful links

Likestarlings

Fergus Allen collaborates with Stephanie Bolster on Likestarlings

http://www.likestarlings.com/poems/fergus_allen_and_stephanie_bolster/1_fa/

Selected bibliography

Before Troy, CB Editions 2010

Gas Light & Coke, Dublin, Dedalus 2006

Buy

Mrs Power Looks Over the Bay, Faber & Faber 1999

Buy

Who Goes There?, Faber & Faber 1996

Buy

The Brown Parrots of Providencia, London, Faber...

Buy

Recordings

Fergus Allen

Fergus Allen Reading from his Poems

1Other

£0.89

2The Brown Parrots of Providencia

£0.89

3Tanks in Moscow

£0.89

4Foreign Relations

£0.89

5Actor in Mirror

£0.89

6Sodium Light

£0.89

7Wall of Death Bray

£0.89

8Flies and Nettles

£0.89

9Knight Errant

£0.89

10Modern Times

£0.89

11Blue Sky Dusty Horizon

£0.89

12When the Car Gave Up the Ghost

£0.89

13Who Goes There

£0.89

14A Time for Blushing

£0.89

15The Lives of the Cousins

£0.89

16To Be Read Before Being Born

£0.89

17A Young Protestant Lady

£0.89

18Parental Guidance

£0.89

19Fire

£0.89

20Waltzing with Veronica

£0.89

21The Visitant

£0.89

22Zennor

£0.89

23Eve's Lament

£0.89

24Fancy Dress

£0.89

25Pontecorvo

£0.89

26After Pneumonia

£0.89

27Irises

£0.89

28At the Meeting of the Niles

£0.89

29Gas Light & Coke

£0.89

30Easterly

£0.89

31Battue

No preview avaialable.£0.89

32A Bad Debt (1842)

£0.89

33Grinzing

£0.89

34Death Sentences

£0.89

A tour of the Archive with Andrew Motion

My short tour of the Poetry Archive is designed to show its range, as well as the strength-in-depth of its holdings...

Featured Guided Tours


Books by Fergus Allen