© Image by Caroline Forbes

John Heath-Stubbs

(1918 - 2006)

"Wayfarer, pause. Although you may not see,/Earth's bright children, herbs and flowers, are here:/It is their small essential souls that greet you," - 'Inscription for a Scented Garden for the Blind', John Heath-Stubbs

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Recordings

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

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Select bibliography

  • Wounded Thammuz, London, Routledge, 1942 - out of print
  • Beauty and the Beast, Routledge, 1943 - out of print
  • The Divided Ways, Routledge, 1946 - out of print
  • Selected Poems of Jonathan Swift (editor), London, Grey Walls Press, 1948 - out of print
  • Selected Poems of P B Shelley, Grey Walls Press, 1948 - out of print
  • Selected Poems of Tennyson (editor), Grey Walls Press, 1948 - out of print
  • The Swarming of the Bees, London, Eyre & Spottiswoode, 1950 - out of print
  • The Darkling Plain, Eyre & Spottiswoode, 1950 - out of print
  • Hafiz of Shiraz (translator with Peter Avery), London, Murray, 1952 - out of print
  • Faber Book of Twentieth Century Verse (editor with David Wright), London, Faber & Faber, 1953
  • Images of Tomorrow (editor), London, SCM, 1953 - out of print
  • A Charm Against the Toothache, London, Methuen, 1954 - out of print
  • Charles Williams (editor), London and New York, Longmans for the British Council, 1955 - out of print
  • The Triumph of the Muse, London and New York, Oxford University Press, 1958 - out of print
  • The Blue Fly in His Head, Oxford University Press, 1962 - out of print
  • Selected Poems of Alexander Pope, London, Heinemann, 1964 - out of print
  • Leopardi - Selected prose and poetry (translator with Iris Origo), Oxford University Press, 1966 - out of print
  • Satires and Epigrams, London, Turret Books, 1968 - out of print
  • The Pastoral, Oxford University Press, 1969 - out of print
  • The Verse Satire, Oxford University Press, 1969 - out of print
  • The Ode, Oxford University Press, 1969 - out of print
  • Artorius, London, Enitharmon, 1973 - out of print
  • Homage to George Barker on his Sixtieth Birthday (editor with Martin Green), London, Martin Brien and O'Keefe, 1973
  • The Poems of Anyte (translator with Carol A Whiteside), Warwick, Greville Press, 1974 - out of print
  • A Parliament of Birds, London, Chatto & Windus, 1975 - out of print
  • The Watchman's Flute, Manchester, Carcanet, 1978 - out of print
  • Mouse, the Bird and the Sausage, Sunderland, Ceolfrith Press, 1978 - out of print
  • The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam (translator with Peter Avery), London, A. Lane, 1979 (new ed. Penguin, 1981)
  • Birds Reconvened, Enitharmon, 1980 - out of print
  • Buzz Buzz, Sidcot, Somerset, Gruffyground Press, 1981 - out of print
  • Naming the Beasts, Carcanet, 1982 - out of print
  • Selected Poems of Thomas Gray, Carcanet, 1983 - out of print
  • Poems of Science (editor with Phillips Salman), Harmondsworth, Penguin, 1984 - out of print
  • The Immolation of Aleph, Carcanet, 1985 - out of print
  • Cats' Parnassus, London, Hearing Eye, 1987
  • Time Pieces, Hearing Eye, 1988
  • A Partridge in a Pear Tree, Hearing Eye, 1988
  • A Ninefold of Charms, Hearing Eye, 1989
  • Selected Poems, Carcanet, 1990
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  • The Game of Love and Death, Enitharmon, 1990
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  • In the Shadows: A Sequence of Sonnets (with David Gray), Hearing Eye, 1991
  • The Parson's Cat, Hearing Eye, 1992
  • Sweetapple Earth, Carcanet, 1993
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  • Hindsights, London, Hodder & Stoughton, 1993 - out of print
  • Chimeras, Hearing Eye, 1994
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  • Touching the Sun: Poems in Memory of Adam Johnson by Some of His Friends, Hearing Eye, 1995
  • Galileo's Salad, Carcanet, 1996
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  • The Torriano Sequences, Hearing Eye, 1997
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  • Literary Essays, Carcanet, 1998
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  • The Sound of Light, Carcanet, 1999
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  • The Eight Poems of Sulpicia, Hearing Eye, 2000
  • The Return of the Cranes, Carcanet, 2002
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  • Pigs Might Fly, Carcanet, 2005
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  • John Heath-Stubbs Reading from his poems, CD, The Poetry Archive, 2005
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John Heath-Stubbs (1918 - 2006) recalled how the teacher at his tiny village school read her pupils Our Island Story, sparking in him the lifelong fascination with history that informed his poetic career. He completed his education at Worcester College for the Blind and Queens College, Oxford. First published in 1941 in Eight Oxford Poets, Heath-Stubbs had a prolific career - as a critic, anthologist and translator as well as poet. He received the Queen's Gold Medal for Poetry and the St Augustine Cross and was awarded the OBE in 1988. He died in London in December 2006.

In the 'Poet of Bray', Heath-Stubbs elegantly parodies the kind of poet who follows literary fashion. His own poetry resolutely refused the labels critics tried to pin on it; described first as a Romantic and then as a Classicist, Heath-Stubbs' work often ran counter to prevailing currents. Perhaps his immunity from fashion was partly informed by his lifelong immersion in history and classical mythologies. In his poems an encounter with Shakespeare, or Li Po or Plato is as natural and immediate as his description of a stone-chat or death-watch beetle. This is not to suggest Heath-Stubbs' work is archaic, far from it; his distinctive achievement was to forge a modern pastoral out of unlikely sources, a style which can encompass Yeatsian symbolism and dry irony. A similar balance is present in his versatile use of form, being equally at home in free verse and the most complex of stanza patterns: included here are a villanelle, a sonnet, a poem written in couplets, together with the Betjeman-like rhythms and rhymes of the lighter poems.

His reading captures this range of tones; deep and resonant it can suggest the voice of an Old Testament prophet, but elsewhere is warm and humorous and he clearly relishes the bite of satire. The dead king in 'Purkis', for instance, may be described in formal tones, but it's the crude cry of the charcoal-burner which ends the poem and after whom it is titled.

His recording was made for The Poetry Archive on 23 November 2000 at the poet's home in London and was produced by Richard Carrington.

John Heath-Stubbs's Favourite Poetry Sayings:

"[Poetry is] articulate music" - Dryden

Prizes

1973 Queen's Gold Medal for Poetry

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