© 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

Share this page

Share this page Bookmark and Share


These poems come from a special recording for the Poetry Archive:

! Missing Player !
To listen to the Archive's recordings, software called Adobe Flash Player (version 10) needs to be installed on your computer and you need to enable JavaScript in your browser settings.

Adobe Flash Player can be downloaded, free of charge, here.

Select bibliography

  • Fairground Music, Chatto & Windus, 1961
  • The Tree That Walked, Chatto & Windus, 1967
  • Squeaking Crust, Chatto & Windus, 1970
  • Cannibals and Missionaries, Secker & Warburg, 1972
  • Epistles to Several Persons, Secker & Warburg, 1973
  • The Mountain in the Sea, Secker & Warburg, 1975
  • Lies and Secrets, Secker & Warburg, 1979
  • The Illusionists, Secker & Warburg, 1980
  • Waiting for the Music, Salamander, 1982
  • Come Aboard and Sail Away, Salamander, 1983
  • The Beautiful Inventions, Secker & Warburg, 1983
  • Selected Poems 1954-1982, Secker & Warburg, 1985
  • Partingtime Hall (with James Fenton), Salamander, 1987
  • The Grey Among the Green, Chatto & Windus, 1988
  • The Mechanical Body, Chatto & Windus, 1991
  • The Vintage Book of Love Poetry, Vintage, 1996
  • Stones and Fires, Chatto & Windus, 1996
  • The Oxford Book of Sonnets, Oxford University Press, 2000
  • Collected Poems, Chatto & Windus, 2002
  • Now and for a Time, Chatto & Windus, 2002
  • Ghosts, Chatto & Windus, 2004
  • The Space of Joy, Chatto & Windus, 2006
  • Pebble and I, Chatto & Windus, 2010
  • Writing the Picture (with David Hurn), Seren Books, 2010
  • John Fuller Reading from his poems, The Poetry Archive, 2010
  • Song and Dance, Chatto & Windus, 2008
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


1960 Newdigate Award

1961 Richard Hillary Memorial Prize

1967 Eric Gregory Award

1974 Geoffrey Faber Memorial Prize, Epistles to Several Persons

1980 Southern Arts Literature Prize, The Illusionists

1983 Cholmondeley Award

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

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

Search for a poem or a poet:

My Archive

Create lists of your favourite poems and poets and share them with friends.

Browse all poets by name

View all poets

Browse all poems by title

View all poems

Glossary of poetic terms

View full glossary
Historic recordings Hear famous voices from poetry's past.

View all historic recordings
Support The Poetry Archive The Poetry Archive depends on donations from public bodies and private individuals. Find out how you can contribute to the work of the Archive.