© Image by Caroline Forbes

Tom Paulin

(b. 1949)

"not a thing no one will stop me I've got to go / down to the wild sea" - 'Sea Wind', Tom Paulin

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

  • A State of Justice, Faber and Faber 1977
  • The Strange Museum, Faber and Faber 1980
  • Liberty Tree, Faber and Faber 1983
  • Seamus Heaney & Tom Paulin, Faber and Faber c.1983
  • The Faber Book of Political Verse, Faber and Faber 1986
  • Fivemiletown, Faber and Faber 1987
  • The Faber Book of Vernacular Verse (editor), Faber and Faber 1990
  • Prometheus Bound, Faber and Faber 1990
  • Minotaur: Poetry and the Nation State, Faber and Faber 1992
  • Selected Poems 1972-1990, Faber and Faber 1993
  • Walking a Line, Faber and Faber 1994
  • Writing to the Moment: Selected Critical Essays 1980-1996, Faber and Faber 1996
  • The Day-Star of Liberty: William Hazlitt's Radical Style, Faber and Faber 1998
  • The Wind Dog, Faber and Faber 1999
  • Walking Lines: Selected Poems, Penguin 1999
  • The Invasion Handbook, Faber and Faber 2003
  • The Road to Inver: Translations, Versions and Imitations 1975-2003, Faber and Faber 2004
  • Tom Paulin Reading from his Poems, The Poetry Archive, 2005
  • D H Lawrence, Faber and Faber 2007
  • The Secret Life of Poems, Faber and Faber 2008
  • Untitled Faber and Faber, 2011
Tom Paulin (b. 1949) is a poet, essayist, editor and lecturer, and a regular panellist on the BBC's Newsnight Review. He won the Somerset Maugham award for his first Faber collection, A State of Justice, and was recently awarded a NESTA grant for an ambitious cross-generic project to present the Second World War in a manner that embraces various forms of poetry, history, drama, biography and politics. He is also probably the only poet to have an indie-rock band named after him.

Paulin's poetry embraces a wide range of subjects, from Paul Klee sourcing canvases from crashed biplanes in 'Klee/Clover' to the fleshly unpleasantness of dead facts he finds 'In the Meat Safe', a poem he introduces by admitting to "a great fascination with bad taste". His writing on William Hazlitt and his editorship of The Faber Book of Political Verse make it unsurprising that politics feature in his work, and the Ireland of his upbringing is unsentimentally evoked as a place where "the Word has withered to a few / Parched certainties", admitting this is a "powerless knowledge" ('Desertmartin') but giving that wisdom voice all the same. The Invasion Handbook, the first volume of his NESTA project, attempts to marshal the full range of voices and influences to be found in World War II into one sequence shaped through competing voices, including those of Kurt Schwitters and Victor Klemperer, Stalin and Hitler.

His interest in voices perhaps informs what Fiona Sampson calls "Paulin's mastery of poetry in translation"; these are free translations, appreciating the travel at the root of the word, and thus including the translator's own sensibility, own Irish vocabulary, even his own locality in some poems. This is not disrespect to the originals, but rather shows that the ideal translation cannot exist, and when Mallarmé's "oiseaux sont ivres" becomes, in 'Sea Wind', "stints skittering along the tideline", his method demonstrates its own rewards.

In 'A Lyric Afterwards', Paulin links "folders of sonnets / and crossword puzzles", contrasting them to "this great kindness everywhere"; his preference is for an open poetic linked to an open mind. He embraces freedom to use uncommon, invented, or slang vocabularies, expecting us to keep up, and in this expressive reading ensures we do.

His recording was made on 8 December 2004 at the Audio Workshop, London, and produced by Richard Carrington.


1976 Eric Gregory Award

1978 Somerset Maugham Award

1982 Geoffrey Faber Memorial Prize The Strange Museum

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.