© Image by Norman McBeath

Jenny Joseph

(b. 1932)

"Why are we frightened of the word for love?" - 'Language teaching: naming', Jenny Joseph

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

  • The Unlooked-for Season, Northwood, Scorpion Press, 1960 - out of print
  • The Nursery Series - various titles, Constable Young Books, 1960s - out of print
  • Rose in the Afternoon, London, J. M. Dent, 1974 - out of print
  • The Thinking Heart, London, Secker & Warburg, 1978 - out of print
  • Beyond Descartes, Secker & Warburg, 1983 - out of print
  • Persephone, Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Bloodaxe, 1986 - out of print
  • The Inland Sea, California, USA, Papier Mache Press, 1989 - out of print
  • Beached Boats, London, Enitharmon Press, 1991 - out of print
  • Selected Poems, Bloodaxe, 1992
  • Ghosts and other company, Bloodaxe, 1995
  • Warning (illustrated poem), London, Souvenir Press, 1997
  • Extended Similes, Bloodaxe, 1997
  • All the things I see, London, Macmillan Children's Books, 2000 (new pbk. ed. 2001)
  • Led by the nose: a garden of smells, Souvenir Press, 2002
  • Jenny Joseph Reading from her poems, CD, The Poetry Archive, 2005
  • Extreme of things, Bloodaxe, 2006
  • Nothing Like Love, Enitharmon 2009
Jenny Joseph (b. 1932) is originally from Birmingham but her first remembered home was in leafy Buckinghamshire. She read English at St Hilda's College Oxford. A variety of occupations has included being a newspaper reporter, lecturer in language and literature and landlady of a London pub. Her poems were first published when she was at university at the beginning of the 1950's, her first book, The Unlooked-for Season, appearing in 1960. This collection won a Gregory Award whilst her second, Rose in the Afternoon, was recognised by a Cholmondeley Award. In 1992 the bulk of her first four books of poems was reprinted in Selected Poems by Bloodaxe Books and it's from this volume that the poems she has chosen for her Archive recording are taken. Her varied output includes poetry for children as well as adults, books that combine prose and poetry (Persephone) and different forms of prose fictions (Extended Similes). She has collaborated with photographers (Beached Boats), painters, musicians, actors and dancers, and worked with speakers of poetry and voice teachers to encourage the learning and speaking of poetry. She currently lives in Gloucestershire.

Of this earlier work featured in her Archive recording a reviewer wrote: "She can delineate surfaces like a sculptor - exact, precise, sharply definite - yet with a startling undertow, a pull of unease which lies just beneath the texture like an artery beneath the skin" (Joan Forman, Eastern Daily Press) and another: "She has a flair for haunting images which she builds up into canvases of considerable power." These qualities are to the fore in her online poems, such as the meditative 'Rose in the Afternoon' or the uncompromising 'Untitled' with its appalled concentration on cruelty. Other tones are also present though, in the lyric joy of 'The sun has burst the sky' or the wisely satirical 'Cutting off one's ears for someone else is wrong', reflecting Joseph's abiding interest in using in her writing the wide range of register of spoken English.

Her reading style emphasises the many voices of her work - melancholy, anguished, humorous. Her own tones bring her different narrators to life so that the listener feels directly engaged in poems "strange in what they say but plain in the way they say it" (The Times).

Her recording was made for The Poetry Archive on 2 September 2003 at DB Studios, Stroud, Gloucestershire, UK and was produced by Richard Carrington.


1960 Gregory Award, The Unlooked-for Season

1974 Cholmondeley Award, Rose in the Afternoon

1975 Arts Council Award

1986 James Tait Black Award, Persephone

1995 Forward Poetry Prize (Best Single Poem), 'In honour of love'

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.