© Image by Caroline Forbes

Charles Tomlinson

(b. 1927)

"A master of his craft... his poems have the finality of form which you find only among the first rate" - Donald Hall

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

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Select bibliography

  • The Necklace, Fantasy Press 1955 - out of print
  • Solo for a Glass Harmonica, Westerham Press 1957 - out of print
  • Seeing is Believing, Obolensky 1958 - out of print
  • A Peopled Landscape, Oxford University Press 1963 - out of print
  • American Scenes and Other Poems, Oxford University Press 1966 - out of print
  • The Matachines: New Mexico, San Marcos Press 1968 - out of print
  • To Be Engraved, On the Skull of a Cormorant, Unaccompanied Serpent Press 1968 - out of print
  • Penguin Modern Poets 14 (Alan Brownjohn, Michael Hamburger and Charles Tomlinson), London, Penguin, 1969 - out of print
  • The Way of a World, Oxford University Press 1969
  • America West Southwest, San Marcos Press 1969 - out of print
  • Renga - A Chain of Poems, with Octavio Paz, Jacques Roubaud and Edoardo Sanguineti, Gallimard, Paris 1970
  • Written on Water, Oxford University Press 1972 - out of print
  • The Way In and Other Poems, Oxford University Press 1974 - out of print
  • The Shaft, Oxford University Press 1978 - out of print
  • Selected Poems 1951-74, Oxford University Press 1978 - out of print
  • Airborn / Hijos del aire (a collaborative poem in English and Spanish, with Octavio Paz), Martin Pescador 1980 - out of print
  • The Flood, Oxford University Press 1981 - out of print
  • Notes from New York and Other Poems, Oxford University Press 1986 - out of print
  • Collected Poems 1951-1981, Oxford University Press 1986 - out of print
  • The Return, Oxford University Press 1987 - out of print
  • Annunciations, Oxford University Press 1989
  • The Door in the Wall, Oxford University Press 1992
  • Poemas (bilingual), Cotovia, Lisbon, 1992
  • Gedichte, Heidelberg 1994
  • Jubilation, Oxford University Press 1995
  • Poemas Portugueses (bilingual), Relogio D'Agua 1996
  • In Italia (bilingual), El tucan de Virgina / Editorial Vuelta 1996
  • Selected Poems 1955-97, Oxford University Press 1997
  • Parole e acqua, Bradipo Editions, Vicenza 1997
  • Vineyard Above the Sea, Oxford Poets / Carcanet Press 1999
  • Luoghi Italiani, Bradipo Editions, Vicenza 2000
  • Skywriting, Carcanet 2003
  • Charles Tomlinson Reading from his Poems, The Poetry Archive 2005
  • Cracks in the Universe, Carcanet 2006
  • New Collected Poems, Carcanet 2009
Charles Tomlinson (b. 1927), since his first publication in 1951, has built a career that has seen more notice in the international scene than in his native England; this may explain, and be explained by, his international vision of poetry. The influence of American poetry, which is acknowledged in his introduction to the first poem on this CD, 'Above Manhattan', and his work as a translator from languages including Italian, Spanish and Russian, testify to that vision, as do his friends, who have included William Carlos Williams, Octavio Paz, Vasko Popa and Philippe Jaccottet. He also works as a critic, a university professor and an artist, and has been rewarded with the Bennett Award, the International Ennio Flaiano Prize and the International Attilio Bertolucci Poetry Award, plus membership of the American Academy of Arts & Sciences, and the British CBE.

The subjects of Tomlinson's work, however, range from the international to the most domestic of subjects. While 'Assassin' takes on the mind of the man who killed Trotsky, 'Jessica Learned to Kiss' is focused tightly on one deferred moment in his then-tiny granddaughter's life. There are signs of his sense of humour in 'After the Poetry Reading', a poem in which Tomlinson records that granddaughter disapproving of him putting her into his poem, but his tone is more usually that of a fascinated observer, and one who expects a similar delighted interest from his listener. This is perhaps shown best by the dual meaning of "reflections" in 'A Given Grace' - we are invited to look at two cups, which, although "common ware", either have or inspire "these rare reflections" on them. Even the speaker of 'Assassin', in the middle of his grisly task, finds himself ecstatically aware of surrounding details.

Tomlinson begins his reading with the words "In reading to you..." - of all the Poetry Archive recordings, this is one of the most intimate, and one of the most welcoming voices. His reading style is pitched beautifully to make it seem that he is animating the poems for us with the same concern for his audience as he shows in his introductions. What the Times Literary Supplement has called his "perfected style" proves here to be as much a part of his reading as of his writing.

His recording was made for The Poetry Archive on 9 March 2001 at his home in Gloucestershire and was produced by Richard Carrington.

Poetry Archive visitors might also like to know that sixty CDs featuring Charles Tomlinson reading his own poetry and translations, plus his dialogues and talks, are available for purchase. The recordings were made at Keele University. If you are interested, please contact Professor Richard Swigg: r.swigg@tiscali.co.uk, 21 Keele Road, Newcastle-under-Lyme, Staffordshire, ST5 2JT. All proceeds from sales of the CDs go to Keele University.


1998 Elected Fellow of American Academy of Arts and Sciences

2003 New Criterion Poetry Prize Skywriting

2004 Attilio Bertolucci Poetry Award

2001 Italian Premio Internationale Flaiano per la Poesia

1993 Bennett Award

1979 Cholmondeley Award

1974 Honorary Fellow, Queen's College, Cambridge

1968 Frank O'Hara Prize

1961 Union League and Civic and Arts Poetry Award

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