Image by Paul Stuart

John Fuller

b. 1937


Fuller is a wonderfully skilled craftman and the grace and elegance of his style is at the service of not only a sharp wit and intelligence, but a great depth of feeling. - Sunday Telegraph

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About John Fuller

As a tutor and now Emeritus Fellow at Magdalen College, Oxford, and winner of accolades including the Geoffrey Faber Memorial Prize, a Cholmondeley Award and a Forward Prize, John Fuller (b. 1937) has led a distinguished and prolific writing career, publishing eighteen collections of poetry. His work's formal variety, thematic range and abundant invention make an encompassing overview of his poetic oeuvre almost impossible: to date he has written tender love lyrics, elegant songs, profound philosophical meditations, and subtly fantastical pieces that seek the peculiar within the familiar, not to mention his skilful composition of light verse.

Among his primary influences are W.H. Auden, Louis MacNeice and Philip Larkin: like them, Fuller often draws moral and philosophical conclusions from the observable and prior personal experience. Of the poems featured in this Archive recording, this is especially apparent in the provocative ruminations of 'Tree Fungus', as well as the MacNeicean reminisces of 'A Cuclshoc', a moving account of simple childhood pleasures, the weightiness of language, and an elegy to the poet's father. But as critic Peter Forbes has noted, "Fuller is a far more playful poet than his immediate predecessors", and this selection also includes a sequence on the babble of the contemporary, a depiction of a double-bass player as, among other things, "a drunk leaning companionably / Around a lamp post", and a collection of supernatural vials that are conjured into "elements of the eternal / in the ceremony of life". All are evidence of an intellectually rigorous yet colourfully imaginative mind at work.

In Fuller's verse-novel 'The Illusionists', written in a typically demanding series of Pushkin sonnets, the narrator states: "Poets adore a divertissement: / They are the hooligans of wit". In certain respects, this may be seen as a manifesto statement: redolent of his poetry's oscillation between intelligent reflection, light wit and occasional raucous humour, and a discursive willingness to tackle almost any subject. A particular highlight is the extended narrative of 'Thun 1947', which reveals Fuller's judicious attention to detail and deft descriptive skills, not only of objects and places, but of subtle human gestures. Elsewhere, 'Koshka' offers a meditation on life and death in the endearing habits of a departed pet cat, while 'Too Late' is a reflection on the many fleeting chances and transitory nature of life.

Throughout this recording, John Fuller reads with clarity, gentle authority and an occasional touch of emotive melancholy: a quiet confidence we may expect from a poet whose work Peter Porter once praised for "building a bridge [...] between light verse and solemn elegy with the best technique of anyone writing in Britain now".

John Fuller's recording was made on 28th October 2009 at the Audio Workshop, London and was produced by John Green.

John Fuller's Favourite Poetry Sayings:

"It should all seem inevitable but unpredictable." - attributed to Alan Rawsthorne

"When you cut into the present the future leaks out." - William Burroughs

Selected bibliography

Writing the Picture (with David Hurn), Seren Books, 2010

Pebble and I, Chatto & Windus, 2010

Song and Dance, Chatto & Windus, 2008

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The Space of Joy, Chatto & Windus, 2006

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Ghosts, Chatto & Windus, 2004

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Now and for a Time, Chatto & Windus, 2002

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Collected Poems, Chatto & Windus, 2002

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The Oxford Book of Sonnets, Oxford University Press,...

Stones and Fires, Chatto & Windus, 1996

Prizes

1960 Newdigate Award

1961 Richard Hillary Memorial Prize

1967 Eric Gregory Award

Prize website

1974 Geoffrey Faber Memorial Prize, Epistles to Several Persons

Prize website

1980 Southern Arts Literature Prize, The Illusionists

1983 Cholmondeley Award

Prize website

1996 Forward Poetry Prize for Best Collection of the Year, Stones & Fires

Prize website

2006 Michael Braude Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters

Prize website