As a tutor and now Emeritus Fellow at Magdalen College, Oxford, and winner of accolades including the Geoffrey Faber Memorial Prize, a Cholmondeley Award and a Forward Prize, John Fuller (b. 1937) has led a distinguished and prolific writing career, publishing eighteen collections of poetry. His work’s formal variety, thematic range and abundant invention make an encompassing overview of his poetic oeuvre almost impossible: to date he has written tender love lyrics, elegant songs, profound philosophical meditations, and subtly fantastical pieces that seek the peculiar within the familiar, not to mention his skilful composition of light verse.

Among his primary influences are W.H. Auden, Louis MacNeice and Philip Larkin: like them, Fuller often draws moral and philosophical conclusions from the observable and prior personal experience. Of the poems featured in this Archive recording, this is especially apparent in the provocative ruminations of ‘Tree Fungus’, as well as the MacNeicean reminisces of ‘A Cuclshoc’, a moving account of simple childhood pleasures, the weightiness of language, and an elegy to the poet’s father. But as critic Peter Forbes has noted, “Fuller is a far more playful poet than his immediate predecessors”, and this selection also includes a sequence on the babble of the contemporary, a depiction of a double-bass player as, among other things, “a drunk leaning companionably / Around a lamp post”, and a collection of supernatural vials that are conjured into “elements of the eternal / in the ceremony of life”. All are evidence of an intellectually rigorous yet colourfully imaginative mind at work.

In Fuller’s verse-novel ‘The Illusionists’, written in a typically demanding series of Pushkin sonnets, the narrator states: “Poets adore a divertissement: / They are the hooligans of wit”. In certain respects, this may be seen as a manifesto statement: redolent of his poetry’s oscillation between intelligent reflection, light wit and occasional raucous humour, and a discursive willingness to tackle almost any subject. A particular highlight is the extended narrative of ‘Thun 1947’, which reveals Fuller’s judicious attention to detail and deft descriptive skills, not only of objects and places, but of subtle human gestures. Elsewhere, ‘Koshka’ offers a meditation on life and death in the endearing habits of a departed pet cat, while ‘Too Late’ is a reflection on the many fleeting chances and transitory nature of life.

Throughout this recording, John Fuller reads with clarity, gentle authority and an occasional touch of emotive melancholy: a quiet confidence we may expect from a poet whose work Peter Porter once praised for “building a bridge […] between light verse and solemn elegy with the best technique of anyone writing in Britain now”.

John Fuller’s Favourite Poetry Sayings:

“It should all seem inevitable but unpredictable.” – attributed to Alan Rawsthorne

“When you cut into the present the future leaks out.” – William Burroughs

John Fuller's recording was made on 28th October 2009 at the Audio Workshop, London and was produced by John Green.

Poems by John Fuller

Books by John Fuller


Geoffrey Faber Memorial Prize

Prize website

Cholmondeley Award

Prize website

Forward Prize for Stones and Fires

Prize website

Michael Braude Award for Light Verse

Prize website

Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature.

Prize website