Tom Raworth (1938 – 2017), in addition to a career that included being the editor of Outburst magazine, founder of the Goliard Press, and an artist whose shows were seen in galleries in Europe and America, was a prolific poet, with over forty books and pamphlets published since 1966. Born in London, he travelled widely and lived in both the USA and Mexico before returning to Britain, settling in Cambridge, where he was Poet in Residence to Kings College, Cambridge; he also received the Alice Hunt Bartlett prize, the Cholmondeley Award, and Arts Council funding for his writing. His Collected Poems were published by Carcanet in 2003.

His poetry’s subject matter ranges widely, including self-reflexive poems that discuss their own creation – “i remove i and a colon from two lines above” in ‘The Moon Upoon the Waters’ to the loving farewell in ‘You Were Wearing Blue’, from elegiac fragments such as ‘In Memoriam Ludwig Wittgenstein’ to political engagements in poems like ‘Human Warmth’ or ‘Nothing’. Formally, while Raworth is not often given to familiar forms or full-rhyme, he will often shape his poems with stanzas or structural systems that counterpoint the flow of the poem.

That flow is a fast one, a stream of images interlinking and resonating off one another; in Raworth’s work, it is not the place of the poet to extrapolate intelligible meanings from these for a listener, the speaker in ‘Wedding Day’ insisting that “i made this pact, intelligence / shall not replace intuition”. It is to this end that each image rapidly takes the place of its predecessor, too fast to work out an intellectual response completely, and his delivery is rapid to match – not at any point unclear, simply committed to what he calls, in ‘The Vein’, “the requisite speed” – and exhilarating to attend to.

Raworth introduces the CD with a brief preface to his history and style, but not the poems – he finds individual introductions “at worst tedious and at best more interesting than the poems that follow” – and they need none. Robert Creeley has said “I’m fascinated by what he’s doing. He’s an extraordinary poet”; this is an extraordinary reading.


His recording was made on 18 April 2005 at The Audio Workshop, London and was produced by Richard Carrington.

Poems by Tom Raworth

Wedding Day - Tom Raworth
You’ve Ruined My Evening / You’ve Ruined My Life - Tom Raworth
Follow the Food - Tom Raworth
The Moon Upon the Waters - Tom Raworth
You Were Wearing Blue - Tom Raworth

Books by Tom Raworth


Alice Hunt Bartlett prize

Prize website

Cholmondeley Award

Prize website

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