© Image by Caroline Forbes

Roy Fisher

(b. 1930)

"...anything I have seen, I've only seen by virtue of having been very inattentive or rebellious at school, and looking at what was out of the corner of the picture, what was outside the frame." - Roy Fisher

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

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Select bibliography

  • City, Worcester, Migrant Press, 1961 - out of print
  • The Ship's Orchestra, London, Fulcrum Press, 1966 - out of print
  • Collected Poems 1968: The Ghost of a Paper Bag, Fulcrum Press, 1969 - out of print
  • Children of Albion: Poetry of the 'Underground' in Britain (contributor), ed. Michael Horovitz, Harmondsworth, Penguin Books, 1969 - out of print
  • The Cut Pages, Fulcrum Press, 1971 - out of print
  • Matrix, Fulcrum Press, 1971 - out of print
  • Looking Glass: an Anthology of Contemporary Poetry (contributor), ed. Eric Williams, London, Edward Arnold, 1973 - out of print
  • Poetry of the Committed Individual: A Stand Anthology of Poetry (contributor), ed. Jon Silkin, Penguin Books, 1973 - out of print
  • Widening Circles: Five Black Country Poets (contributor), ed. Edward Lowbury, Stafford, West Midland Arts, 1976 - out of print
  • The Thing about Joe Sullivan: Poems 1971-1977, Manchester, Carcanet New Press, 1978 - out of print
  • Poems 1955-1980, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 1980 - out of print
  • A Furnace, Oxford University Press, 1986 - out of print
  • A Various Art (contributor), ed. Andrew Crozier and Tim Longville, Carcanet, 1987 - out of print
  • Poems 1955-1987, Oxford University Press, 1988 - out of print
  • Birmingham River, Oxford University Press, 1994 - out of print
  • The Dow Low Drop: New and Selected Poems, Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Bloodaxe, 1996
  • A State of Independence (contributor), ed. Tony Frazer, Devon, Stride Publications, 1998 - out of print
  • The Harvill Book of Twentieth Century Poetry in English (contributor), ed. Michael Schmidt, London, Harvill Press, 1999 - out of print
  • Other: British and Irish Poets since 1970 (contributor), ed. Richard Caddel and Peter Quartermain, Connecticut, Wesleyan University Press, 1999 - out of print
  • New Penguin Book of English Verse (contributor), ed. Paul Keegan, Penguin, 2000
  • News for the Ear: A Homage to Roy Fisher, ed. Peter Robinson and Robert Sheppard, Stride Publications, 2000 - out of print
  • Interviews Through Time and Selected Prose (contributor), ed. Tony Frazer, Devon, Shearsman Books, 2000
  • The Thing about Roy Fisher (John Kerrigan), Liverpool University Press 2000
  • Anthology of Twentieth-Century British and Irish Poetry (contributor), ed. Keith Tuma, New York, Oxford University Press, 2001
  • The Long and the Short of It: Poems 1955-2005, Bloodaxe, 2005
  • Roy Fisher Reading from his poems, CD, The Poetry Archive, 2005
Roy Fisher (b. 1930) grew up in Birmingham and was educated at the local grammar school and Birmingham University. He worked as a teacher of English in schools and colleges, including latterly the University of Keele, Staffordshire. Since 1982 he has been a freelance writer and jazz musician. First published in the 1950s, Fisher's work from the beginning was outside the English poetry mainstream, looking instead towards Europe and America, and the Black Mountain poets in particular, for inspiration. Over the course of half a century, however, Fisher's elusive, skilful poems have become increasingly recognised, so much so that his 1986 book, A Furnace, was a Poetry Book Society Recommendation, The Thing About Joe Sullivan a PBS Choice and the most recent editions of his collected poems have appeared from Oxford University Press and Bloodaxe.

Fisher has described himself as "a Midlander, which is a very particular sort of race. It's supposed to be nowhere at all," and in these remarks can be detected a tension that runs through his poetry. On the one hand his writing is deeply rooted - Fisher acknowledges his almost Wordsworthian attachment to the city of his birth - on the other it refuses certainty and belonging. An essential quality in Fisher's aesthetic is openness - of form, subject and meaning - an attitude celebrated in his elegy for the poet, Asa Benveniste, "your eyebrows arched/so high as to hold/nothing excluded that might want in". This dynamic is seen most clearly in the West Midlands poems, and the attention Fisher pays to the in-between places, those disregarded industrial sites he knows so well: in 'Birmingham River' the waterway turns out to be not one, but two rivers, both of which, significantly, flow underground. The world is always various in Fisher, to be looked at from more than one angle. Elsewhere, his subject is perception itself as in his oblique sequence, 'Matrix', which he describes as an ink blot, open to interpretation.

Fisher's own softly-spoken, ruminative tones suggest a mind speaking to itself, exploring an internal geography with tenacity and precision. The abiding impression is of a poet faithful to his own vision, determined to come at the world "edge on" ('Noted').

His recording was made for The Poetry Archive on 13 June 2001 at The Audio Workshop, London and was produced by Richard Carrington.


1969 Andrew Kelus Poetry Prize

1978 Poetry Book Society Choice, The Thing About Joe Sullivan

1981 Cholmondeley Award

1982 West Midlands Arts Writing Bursary

1983 Arts Council Writing Bursary

1986 Poetry Book Society Recommendation, A Furnace

1992 Society of Authors Travel Bursary

1997 Hamlyn Award

2003 Honorary Poet of the City of Birmingham

2005 Elected Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature

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