Jenny Joseph (b. 1932 – d. 2018) was originally from Birmingham but her first remembered home was in leafy Buckinghamshire. She read English at St Hilda’s College Oxford. A variety of occupations included being a newspaper reporter, lecturer in language and literature and landlady of a London pub. Her poems were first published when she was at university at the beginning of the 1950’s, her first book, The Unlooked-for Season, appearing in 1960. This collection won a Gregory Award whilst her second, Rose in the Afternoon, was recognised by a Cholmondeley Award. In 1992 the bulk of her first four books of poems was reprinted in Selected Poems by Bloodaxe Books and it’s from this volume that the poems she chose for her Archive recording are taken. Her varied output included poetry for children as well as adults, books that combine prose and poetry (Persephone) and different forms of prose fictions (Extended Similes). She collaborated with photographers (Beached Boats), painters, musicians, actors and dancers, and worked with speakers of poetry and voice teachers to encourage the learning and speaking of poetry.

Of this earlier work featured in her Archive recording a reviewer wrote: “She can delineate surfaces like a sculptor – exact, precise, sharply definite – yet with a startling undertow, a pull of unease which lies just beneath the texture like an artery beneath the skin” (Joan Forman, Eastern Daily Press) and another: “She (had) a flair for haunting images which she builds up into canvases of considerable power.” These qualities are to the fore in her online poems, such as the meditative ‘Rose in the Afternoon’ or the uncompromising ‘Untitled’ with its appalled concentration on cruelty. Other tones are also present though, in the lyric joy of ‘The sun has burst the sky’ or the wisely satirical ‘Cutting off one’s ears for someone else is wrong’, reflecting Joseph’s abiding interest in using in her writing the wide range of register of spoken English.

Her reading style emphasises the many voices of her work – melancholy, anguished, humorous. Her own tones bring her different narrators to life so that the listener feels directly engaged in poems “strange in what they say but plain in the way they say it” (The Times).

Her recording was made for The Poetry Archive on 2 September 2003 at DB Studios, Stroud, Gloucestershire, UK and was produced by Richard Carrington.

Her recording was made for The Poetry Archive on 2 September 2003 at DB Studios, Stroud, Gloucestershire, UK and was produced by Richard Carrington.

Poems by Jenny Joseph

The Lost Sea - Jenny Joseph
The sun has burst the sky - Jenny Joseph
Fables – Cutting off one’s ears for someone else is wrong - Jenny Joseph
Rose in the afternoon - Jenny Joseph
Jenny Joseph in the Poetry Store

The free tracks you can enjoy in the Poetry Archive are a selection of a poet’s work. Our catalogue store includes many more recordings which you can download to your device.

Books by Jenny Joseph



Gregory Award, The Unlooked-for Season


Cholmondeley Award, Rose in the Afternoo


Arts Council Award


James Tait Black Award, Persephone


Forward Poetry Prize (Best Single Poem), 'In honour of love'