© Image by Caroline Forbes

John Mole

(b. 1941)

"...lie down together, laughing, and let be." (John Mole, from 'Serenade')

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

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  • Poet In The City
    John Mole is currently Poet in residence for Poet In The City.

Select bibliography

  • The Love Horse, E J Morten 1973 - out of print
  • Our Ship, Secker and Warburg, 1977 - out of print
  • From the House Opposite, Secker and Warburg 1979 - out of print
  • Feeding the Lake, Secker and Warburg 1981 - out of print
  • In and Out of the Apple, Secker and Warburg 1984 - out of print
  • Homing, Secker and Warburg 1987 - out of print
  • Boo to a Goose, Peterloo Poets 1987
  • The Mad Parrot's Countdown, Peterloo Poets 1990
  • Depending on the Light, Peterloo Poets 1993
  • The Dummy's Dilemma, Hodder 1999
  • For the Moment, Peterloo Poets 2000
  • The Wonder Dish, Oxford University Press 2002
  • Counting the Chimes: New & Selected Poems, Peterloo Poets 2004
  • John Mole Reading from his Poems, Poetry Archive 2005
  • The Other Day, Peterloo Poets 2007
  • This is the Blackbird, Peterloo Poets 2007
  • The Bone in Her Leg, The Happy Dragons' Press, 2009
  • All the Frogs, Salt, 2010
  • The Point of Loss, Enitharmon Press, 2011
In addition to writing poetry for both children and adults, John Mole (b. 1941) is an accomplished jazz clarinettist, and has been known to combine poetry and jazz with other poet-musicians such as Roy Fisher and John Lucas. He has won several prizes for his poetry, including an Eric Gregory award, the Cholmondeley Award and the Signal Award, has been Writer in Residence at Magdalene College, Cambridge, and is currently the Poetry Society's Poet in Residence to the City of London. He trained as a teacher and has worked in both America and Britain, and still often returns to schools to lead poetry workshops and readings.

It is not surprising, hearing Mole's adult poetry, to know he also writes for children; the work is full of seductive and unsettling images, voices and rhythms from childhood. His 'Variation on an Old Rhyme' starts in a fairytale mood, but brings in escalating violence that leads to war between nations, while 'The Balancing Man', written for children in the rhythms of a nursery rhyme, is a warning against the coldly political-minded that holds for adults too. His interest in jazz is also influential in his breathless, single-sentence poems like 'Fats', written for Fats Waller and studded with words like "gliss" and "shimmy" that stand out like moments of joy. Joy, or at least happiness, runs throughout Mole's poetry, and there is little lasting sadness to be found - 'Serenade' rejoices in "the best of being here", and even the weeping aunt in 'The War' ends the poem cheerfully chewing gum with the young speaker. However, the haunted Vietnam veteran of 'Coming Home' is a stark image that shows the range of Mole's work.

The poetry on his CD represents Mole's work for both children and adults, and he has also recorded introductions to many of the poems that explain their themes, their form or the inspirations behind them. He is a clear and accessible reader, with a sense of timing clearly informed by his musical interest - and there is often a welcoming warmth audible in his voice.

His recording was made on 30 April 2003 at the Audio Workshop, London, and was produced by Richard Carrington.

John Mole's Favourite Poetry Sayings:

"A poem is, so to speak, a way of making you forget how you wrote it." - Randall Jarrell

"Put poetry on a pedestal and it ends up on a shelf." - W H Auden

"men should know why / They write, and for what end; but, note or text / I never know the word which will come next." - Lord Byron, from 'Don Juan'

"If you want to give your unconscious a chance you must keep your eye on something else." - Louis MacNeice

"Poetry presents the thing in order to convey the feeling. It should be precise about the thing and reticent about the feeling, for as soon as the mind responds and connects with the thing the feeling shows in the words; this is how poetry enters deeply into us." - Wei T'ai


1987 Signal Poetry Award Boo to a Goose

1994 Cholmondeley Award

1970 Gregory Award

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