© Image by Caroline Forbes

Adrian Mitchell

(1932 - 2008)

"a voice as welcome as Lear's fool... Humour that can stick deep and stay funny." - Ted Hughes

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

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  • Interview with Adrian Mitchell
    In this interview Adrian Mitchell, the UK's alternative Poet Laureate, makes a passionate argument for the necessity of poetry. He also discusses how he gets ideas for his poems, where he writes them and for whom, (and why you should be careful what you say on the bus!)
    View all interviews
  • The Poem Show: Funny Poem Special
    On the Poetry Trust website, this special edition of the Poem Show celebrates our wittiest, most entertaining poets. Listen to the late, great Adrian Mitchell read his famous poem of adolescence, 'A Puppy called Puberty'. Also featuring Matt Harvey and Helena Nelson.

Select bibliography

  • Poems, Jonathan Cape 1964 - out of print
  • Out Loud, Cape Goliard 1968
  • Ride the Nightmare, Cape 1971 - out of print
  • The Apeman Cometh, Cape 1975 - out of print
  • For Beauty Douglas: Collected Poems 1953-1979, Allison and Busby 1982 - out of print
  • On the Beach at Cambridge, Allison and Busby 1984 - out of print
  • Nothingmas Day, Allison and Busby, 1984 - out of print
  • Love Songs of World War Three: Collected Stage Lyrics, Allison and Busby, 1988 - out of print
  • Strawberry Drums (editor), Macdonald 1989 - out of print
  • All My Own Stuff, Simon and Schuster 1991
  • Adrian Mitchell's Greatest Hits - The Top Forty, Bloodaxe Books 1992
  • The Orchard Book of Poems (editor), Orchard Books 1995
  • Blue Coffee: Poems 1986-1995, Bloodaxe 1996
  • Heart on the Left: Collected Poems 1953-85, Bloodaxe 1997
  • Balloon Lagoon, Orchard Books 1997
  • Dancing In The Street (editor), Orchard Books 1999
  • All Shook Up: Poems 1996-2000, Bloodaxe 2000
  • The Dogfather: Double CD of poems and some songs, 57 Productions 2000
  • The Shadow Knows: Poems 2000-2004, Bloodaxe 2004
  • Daft as a Doughnut, Orchard Books 2004
  • Adrian Mitchell Reading from his Poems, Poetry Archive 2005
  • In Person 30 Poets, Edited by Neil Astley / Films by Pamela Robertson-Pearce, Bloodaxe Books 2008
  • Umpteen Pockets, Hachette 2009
  • Tell Me Lies, Bloodaxe Books 2009
Adrian Mitchell (1932 - 2008) was a hugely prolific writer, the author of a great number of novels, plays and poems, for adults and, increasingly, for children - he wrote that "more and more of my time is spent writing for children. This is partly because I have six grandchildren." He started his own literary career as a child, writing his first play at the age of ten, and went on to be Chairman of the University Poetry Society while studying at Oxford. He has also worked as a journalist - the first one to print an interview with the Beatles - and a screenwriter for film and TV, and is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature.

Mitchell was committed to a form of poetry that welcomes as many people as possible - he was, perhaps, best known for saying that "Most people ignore most poetry because most poetry ignores most people." Thus his work deals with recognisable subjects in clear, modern language, and can revel in strong rhythms, drawn as often from the blues and pop music as from the poetic canon. 'In My Two Small Fists', for example, makes a litany of remembered treasures that include "prickly heather / cowrie shells / and a seagull's feather".

His commitment to pacifist politics was equally strong; he first came to public attention as a poet during protests against the Vietnam War, and was appointed by Red Pepper as the Shadow Poet Laureate - poems such as 'Playground' and 'Roundabout' were written in the wake of the invasion of Iraq, which took place only weeks before this recording was made. The small human story of the first of these poems and the big-picture take of the second demonstrate the range of his vision, and the sardonic rhymes of 'Playground' show his ability with humour as a weapon against oppressive forces. Ted Hughes described him as "a voice as welcome as Lear's fool... Humour that can stick deep and stay funny."

Years of public protest and performing his work honed his performance, so that he rails, cajoles and sometimes comes close to song in these poems, all in the service of making them as open as possible, and to be, as Angela Carter described him, a "joyous, acrid and demotic tumbling lyricist Pied Piper determinedly singing us away from catastrophe."

His recording was made on 3 June 2003 at his home in London and was produced by Richard Carrington.


1961 Eric Gregory Award

1966 PEN Translation Prize

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