Anthony Thwaite (b. 1930 – d. 2021) was deeply involved in English literary life; in addition to 15 volumes of his own poetry, he was a a publisher and literary editor of magazines such as The Listener and the New Statesman, and an executor of the estate of Philip Larkin. He was awarded an honorary D.Litt from the University of Hull, and was made an OBE in 1990. His also had an international outlook and lectured at universities worldwide, including Japan and Libya (where he spent his military service), and was is co-editor of The Penguin Book of Japanese Verse. He lived in Norfolk.

This history of travel makes itself known in the poems here; the impromptu test of his Japanese and great evocation of jet-lag in ‘Cockroach Story’ is an example of this, as is the fascination in the graffitied Libyan potsherd in ‘Sigma’. As would be expected from someone who described himself as an “archaeologist manque”, Thwaite was often drawn to a striking object or fragment – the terracotta head in ‘The Return’, for example – from which an epiphany seems to spill out naturally. His archaeological exhibition, ‘A Poet’s Pots’, was shown in Norwich in 1998.

The attention to objects does not mean there is any lack of people in his poetry – Louis MacNeice and Philip Larkin have cameo parts, and various family members appear, such as the memory of his father (in ‘My Father’s Poems’), or his daughter drifting out of the rock concert in ‘Called For’. Poetry itself is another theme, as some of the poems on this recording worry away at the idea of themselves, such as ‘Simple Poem’, or ‘Tune’.

Thwaite reads in a voice that is clear, poised and firm, with poetic effects audible but not exaggerated (although he was perfectly happy to do the accents when the poems demand) and introduces many of the poems to explain inspirations and contexts. He even admits which is his favourite poem from his own body of work, a sign of the welcoming nature of this showcase of poems that the poet Vernon Scannell  has described as “unflashy, honest, scrupulously chiselled work”.


His recording was made on 12 March 2003 at The Audio Workshop, London and was produced by Richard Carrington.

Poems by Anthony Thwaite

Monologue in the Valley of the Kings - Anthony Thwaite
Together, Apart - Anthony Thwaite
Simple Poem - Anthony Thwaite
Anthony Thwaite in the Poetry Store

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Books by Anthony Thwaite



Richard Hillary Memorial Prize for The Stones of Emptiness

Prize website

Henfield Writing Fellow at the University of East Anglia

Visiting Professor at Kuwait University


Japan Foundation Fellowship at the University of Tokyo

Poet-in-Residence at Vanderbilt University



Prize website