About Adrian Mitchell

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.”

 

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

Poems by Adrian Mitchell

A Flying Song - Adrian Mitchell
Life Is a Walk Across a Field - Adrian Mitchell
In My Two Small Fists - Adrian Mitchell
Playground - Adrian Mitchell
William Blake says: Everything that Lives is Holy - Adrian Mitchell
Elephant Eternity - Adrian Mitchell
Adrian Mitchell in the Poetry Store

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Featured in the Archive

Books by Adrian Mitchell

Awards

1961

Eric Gregory Award 1961

Prize website
1966

PEN Translation Prize

Prize website
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