About Charles Tomlinson
Charles Tomlinson, since his first publication in 1951, built a career that saw more notice in the international scene than in his native England; this may explain, and be explained by, his international vision of poetry. The influence of American poetry, which is acknowledged in his introduction to the first poem on this CD, ‘Above Manhattan’, and his work as a translator from languages including Italian, Spanish and Russian, testify to that vision, as do his friends, who have included William Carlos Williams, Octavio Paz, Vasko Popa and Philippe Jaccottet. He also worked as a critic, a university professor and an artist, and was rewarded with the Bennett Award, the International Ennio Flaiano Prize and the International Attilio Bertolucci Poetry Award, plus membership of the American Academy of Arts & Sciences, and the British CBE.
The subjects of Tomlinson’s work, however, ranged from the international to the most domestic of subjects. While ‘Assassin’ takes on the mind of the man who killed Trotsky, ‘Jessica Learned to Kiss’ is focused tightly on one deferred moment in his then-tiny granddaughter’s life. There are signs of his sense of humour in ‘After the Poetry Reading’, a poem in which Tomlinson records that granddaughter disapproving of him putting her into his poem, but his tone is more usually that of a fascinated observer, and one who expects a similar delighted interest from his listener. This is perhaps shown best by the dual meaning of “reflections” in ‘A Given Grace’ – we are invited to look at two cups, which, although “common ware”, either have or inspire “these rare reflections” on them. Even the speaker of ‘Assassin’, in the middle of his grisly task, finds himself ecstatically aware of surrounding details.
Tomlinson begins his reading with the words “In reading to you…” – of all the Poetry Archive recordings, this is one of the most intimate, and one of the most welcoming voices. His reading style is pitched beautifully to make it seem that he is animating the poems for us with the same concern for his audience as he shows in his introductions. What the Times Literary Supplement has called his “perfected style” proves here to be as much a part of his reading as of his writing.
Poetry Archive visitors might also like to know that sixty CDs featuring Charles Tomlinson reading his own poetry and translations, plus his dialogues and talks, are available for purchase. The recordings were made at Keele University. If you are interested, please contact Professor Richard Swigg: firstname.lastname@example.org, 21 Keele Road, Newcastle-under-Lyme, Staffordshire, ST5 2JT. All proceeds from sales of the CDs go to Keele University.
His recording was made for The Poetry Archive on 9 March 2001 at his home in Gloucestershire and was produced by Richard Carrington.
Poems by Charles Tomlinson
Books by Charles Tomlinson
Relations and Contraries
Hand and Flower Press, 1951