P. J. Kavanagh

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For Irish poet Patrick Kavanagh (1904-1967), see Patrick Kavanagh.

Patrick Joseph Kavanagh[1] (born 6 January 1931[2]) [not to be confused with the Irish poet Patrick Kavanagh] is an English poet, lecturer, actor, broadcaster and columnist. His father was the ITMA scriptwriter, Ted Kavanagh.

PJ Kavanagh first worked as a Butlin's Redcoat, then as a newsreader for Radiodiffusion Francaise, in Paris. He attended acting classes but was called up for his National Service, and was wounded in the Korean War. While studying at Merton College, Oxford, and starting to write poetry, he met and later married Sally Phillips, the daughter of novelist Rosamund Lehmann. She died of poliomyelitis while they were living in Java, where he was teaching for the British Council.[1] His memoir about their relationship, The Perfect Stranger, won the Richard Hillary Memorial Prize. Since then, he has been known as a writer and broadcaster.

He has published several volumes of poetry: One And One, On The Way To The Depot, About Time, Edward Thomas in Heaven, Life Before Death and An Enchantment and Something About. There have also been collections: Selected Poems, Presences: New And Selected Poems, and Collected Poems. In 1992 he was given the Cholmondeley Award for poetry.

Kavanagh's first novel A Song and Dance, was awarded the Guardian Fiction Prize, thereafter he has written three further novels A Happy Man, People and Weather, and Only By Mistake, and two novels for children: Scarf Jack and Rebel for Good.

He has published a collection of essays and articles People and Places: A Selection 1975-1987, a travel autobiography Finding Connections, and a literary companion Voices in Ireland. He is editor of Collected Poems of Ivor Gurney, The Bodley Head G.K.Chesterton, The Essential G.K.Chesterton, The Oxford Book of Short Poems (with James Michie) and A Book of Consolations.

He was a columnist for The Spectator from 1983 to 1996 and then for The Times Literary Supplement until 2002.

He co-presented the programme Poetry Please on BBC Radio 4 (from ... to ...). His acting roles include the films Half Moon Street [...] and Hidden Agenda [...], and television appearances in Journey Through Summer [..] and as the nazi-memorabilia-collecting Father Seamus Fitzpatrick in the episode of Father Ted "Are You Right There, Father Ted?".

He is married, with two children, and has lived in Gloucestershire since 1963.


  • One and One, London: Heinemann, 1959.
  • The Perfect Stranger (autobiography), London: Chatto and Windus, 1966.
  • On the Way to the Depot, London: Chatto & Windus / The Hogarth Press, 1967.
  • A Song and Dance, 1968
  • About Time, London: Chatto & Windus / The Hogarth Press, 1970.
  • A Happy Man, 1972.
  • Edward Thomas in Heaven, London: Chatto & Windus / The Hogarth Press, 1974.
  • People and Weather, London: John Calder, 1978. ISBN 0 7145 3666 0
  • Scarf Jack, 1978.
  • Life Before Death, London: Chatto & Windus / The Hogarth Press, 1979. ISBN 0-7011-2415-6
  • Rebel for Good, 1980.
  • Collected Poems of Ivor Gurney (editor), Oxford University Press, 1982 ISBN 0-19-211963-X (paperback)
  • The Oxford Book of Short Poems (co-editor with James Michie), Oxford University Press, 1985.
  • The Bodley Head G.K.Chesterton, (editor), 1985
  • Only By Mistake, 1986.
  • The Essential G.K.Chesterton, (editor), 1987
  • People and Places: a selection 1975-1987, 1988
  • Finding Connections, 1990
  • An Enchantment, Manchester: Carcanet, 1991. ISBN 0 85635 961 0
  • A Book of Consolations, (editor), 1992
  • Collected Poems. Manchester: Carcanet, 1995. ISBN 978-1-85754-212-7
  • Voices in Ireland: A Traveller's Literary Companion, John Murray, 1995.
  • Something About, Manchester: Carcanet, 2004.
  • P J Kavanagh Reading from his poems, The Poetry Archive 2005


  1. ^ a b Howse, Christopher (2004-10-24). "A writer's life: PJ Kavanagh". London: The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 20 May 2010. 
  2. ^ P. J. Kavanagh at the Internet Movie Database

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