Michael Laskey

(b. 1944)

"The Laskey effect...is of suddenly sensing that more meaning is inherent in 'ordinary' moments than we were expecting." - Mark Halliday

Share this page

Share this page Bookmark and Share

Recordings

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

  • Cloves of Garlic, Poetry Business, 1988
  • Thinking of Happiness, Peterloo, 1991
    Buy Buy
  • In the Fruit Cage, Smith/Doorstop, 1997
  • Living by the Sea, Smith/Doorstop, 1997
    Buy
  • The Tightrope Wedding, Smith/Doorstop, 1999
    Buy
  • The Aldeburgh Poetry Festival Anthology 1989-1998 (editor), Aldeburgh Poetry Trust, 1999
    Buy
  • Permission to Breathe, Smith/Doorstop, 2004
    Buy
  • The Man Alone: New and Selected Poems, Smith/Doorstop, 2008
    Buy
  • Michael Laskey Reading from His Poems, The Poetry Archive, 2010
    Buy
Michael Laskey (b. 1944) is a poet, editor and a tireless champion of contemporary poetry, particularly through the international Aldeburgh Poetry Festival which he co-founded in 1989 and which continues to be an important showcase for poets from around the world. Educated at St John's College, Cambridge, he taught in secondary schools for ten years. Since 1978 he has lived in Suffolk, working as a freelance writer and editor and as a creative writing tutor for both adults and children. Married to a GP, Laskey was also the main carer for the couple's three sons in their pre-school years, an experience which finds its way into a number of poems.

As well as founding the Aldeburgh Festival, in 1991 Laskey also set up the poetry magazine, Smiths Knoll, with the late Roy Blackman. His own poems have appeared in three pamphlets and four collections, his first full-length collection, Thinking of Happiness, appearing in 1991. This was a Poetry Book Society Recommendation as was his second collection, The Tightrope Wedding, which was also shortlisted for the T S Eliot Prize. A new and selected poems, The Man Alone was published in 2008.

Like the page-turner of his poem of the same name, Laskey is an unobtrusive observer of detail and emotional nuance. The US critic, Mark Halliday, praises this restraint in his analysis of a typical Laskey poem, with its "sense of having arrived at the ending a bit sooner and more quietly than expected." It's a technique which sends the reader back to the start of a poem to see what he's missed. In 'Rain' for instance, the seemingly minor details about a leak in the pantry can be seen, in retrospect, as building up to a contrast with the narrator's children who've been absorbed in making canals and seas. Laskey's poems are particularly good at capturing this intersection of intimacy and distance, for example in the avoidance of illness in 'Picking Raspberries with My Mother'.

This is domestic territory but without a hint of the cosiness this term might imply: in 'Home Movies' what starts as comedy ends in "that slither of negatives" as the poet watches the film of his parents' wedding in reverse. Elsewhere the tone is more celebratory in poems which uphold the rituals of daily living, like the preparing and sharing of food, and which, in the words of fellow poet Craig Raine, "keep faith with actual experience."

The music of Laskey's poetry is also subtle and supple. Making use of half and slant rhymes, they proceed with what his colleague at Aldeburgh Festival, Naomi Jaffa, has described as "a glorious lack of fuss." This is evident in his Archive recording which, like the poems themselves, has a stealthy power.

Prizes

1991 Poetry Book Society Recommendation Thinking of Happiness
Website

1999 Poetry Book Society Recommendation The Tightrope Wedding
Website

1999 T. S. Eliot Prize (shortlist) The Tightrope Wedding
Website

2005 Arts Council International Writing Fellowship, The Banff Centre, Canada
Website

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.