Phil Bowen

Image by Bernard Mitchell

Phil Bowen

b. 1949

Wacky, nuts and a genius who knows poetry and how to compose it as if he had been doing it before he could breathe.

Night Soil Men Again

Phil Bowen

The Night Soil Men

Phil Bowen

What the Night Says

Phil Bowen

The Yaffling Tree

Phil Bowen

Fern and Sting

Phil Bowen

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About Phil Bowen

Born in Liverpool in 1949, Phil Bowen was heavily influenced by the lively Mersey scene of the sixties and seventies, which produced the Beatles and the Mersey Beat Poets. He has edited two poetry anthologies celebrating musicians from the period, including Newspaper Taxis: Poetry After the Beatles (Seren, 2013) and The Captain's Tower: 70 Poets Celebrate Bob Dylan at 70 (Seren 2011). In A Gallery to Play To (Liverpool University Press, 2008) he writes about the lives and careers of fellow Mersey poets, Adrian Henri, Roger McGough and Brian Patten.

Poems from his 1997 poetry collection, Variety's Hammer (Stride) were included in The Forward Anthology of 1998. This was followed by Starfly (Stride, 2004) and Nowhere's Far: New and Selected Poems 1990-2008 (Salt, 2009). Alongside his career in print he has developed a repertoire of stage shows, starting with 1998's A Handful of Rain and, more recently, 2009's Anything but Love. His performance career stretches across the UK's festival circuits, with gigs at the Edinburgh Festival, Latitude, Hay on Wye's How the Light Gets In and poetry festivals at Dartington, Ilkley and Clerkenwell.

For the Poetry Archive, Phil has recorded a selection from Cuckoo Rock (Salt, 2010), a collection which explores the “curious and thrilling places just beneath the surface of our world” (Philip Gross). The fictional town of Cuckoo Rock, set in the Magical Valley, is populated with wonderfully strange characters, from the Night Soil Men to Demonica, and bizarre flora and fauna, from Splatfish to the Yaffling Tree. Phil recently adapted Cuckoo Rock as a children's musical, with a score composed by David Stoll.

Alongside these poems the CD includes an exclusive recording of poems written for another musical for children, Chimney Kids (2006), which he describes as “poems set in Victorian times, reflecting different aspects and different types of society”. The closing poem is a playful explosion of rhythms, 'The Kronk of Karou', after Edward Lear's nonsense poem, 'The Akond of Swat'.

As well as festival and theatre appearances, Phil has performed on radio and for television, but it is as a poet in schools that he is best known, with well over a thousand school visits to his name in thirty countries and to all age groups. He has contributed to the Poetry Society's Poetryclass lessons, offered training to teachers and held residencies at the Royal School for the Blind, in state and public schools and at libraries. As one of the lucky schoolchildren attending his workshops said, Phil is “wacky, nuts and a genius who [knows] poetry and how to compose it as if he had been doing it before he could breathe”.


The Ralph Lewis Poetry Award, 1997

Bridport Poetry Prize, runner up, 1998

Prize website

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