Charles Tomlinson

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For the Victorian era scientist, see Charles Tomlinson (scientist).

Alfred Charles Tomlinson, CBE (8 January 1927 – 22 August 2015) was a British poet, translator, academic and illustrator. [1] He was born and raised in Penkhull in the city of Stoke-on-Trent, Staffordshire.[2]


After attending Longton High School,[3] Tomlinson read English at Queens' College, Cambridge, where he studied with Donald Davie. After leaving university he spent a year in Liguria in Italy and then taught in a primary school. He later became Emeritus Professor of English Poetry at the University of Bristol, England. He and his wife Brenda lived in a Cotswold cottage at Ozleworth, near Wotton-under-Edge.[2] They met as teenagers, and have two daughters and a granddaughter. He was also a graphic artist, and In Black and White: The Graphics of Charles Tomlinson, with an introduction by Nobel prize-winner Octavio Paz, was published in 1975 and was the focus of a December 1975 edition of the BBC television series Arena.


Tomlinson's first book of poetry was published in 1951, and his Collected Poems was published by the Oxford University Press in 1985, followed by the Selected Poems: 1955-1997 in 1997. His poetry won international recognition and received many prizes in Europe and the United States, including the 1993 Bennett Award from Hudson Review; the New Criterion Poetry Prize, 2002; the Premio Internazionale di Poesie Ennio Flaiano, 2001; and the Premio Internazionale di Poesia Attilio Bertolucci, 2004. He was an Honorary Fellow of the American Academy of the Arts and Sciences and of the Modern Language Association. Charles Tomlinson was made a CBE in 2001 for his contribution to literature. Charles Tomlinson's Selected Poems, his collections Skywriting, Metamorphoses and The Vineyard Above the Sea, amongst others, are all published by Carcanet Press. His latest collection Cracks in the Universe was published in May 2006 in Carcanet Press' Oxford Poets series.

In his book Some Americans Tomlinson acknowledges his poetic debts to modern American poetry, in particular William Carlos Williams, George Oppen, Marianne Moore, and Louis Zukofsky, as well as artists like Georgia O'Keeffe and Arshile Gorky. In his critical study Lives of Poets, Michael Schmidt observes that 'Wallace Stevens was the guiding star [Tomlinson] initially steered by'.[4] Schmidt goes on to define the two characteristic voices of Tomlinson: 'one is intellectual, meditative, feeling its way through ideas' whilst the other voice engages with 'landscapes and images from the natural world'.[5] Tomlinson's poetry often circles around these themes of place and return, exploring his native landscape of Stoke and the shifting cityscape of modern Bristol.[4] In Against Extremity Tomlinson expresses a distrust of confessional verse and rejects the 'willed extremism of poets like Sylvia Plath and Anne Sexton'.[5]

From 1985 to 2000 he recorded all of his published poetry for Keele University. Included are his Stoke-on-Trent poems, which are: At Stoke; The Slag Heap; Steel; Canal; Poem for My Father; John Maydew; The Hand at Callow Hill Farm; The Farmer's Wife; Black Brook; The Question; The Shaft; After a Death; Night Ride; Gladstone Street; Etruria Vale; Penkhull New Road; The Way In; The Tree; Midlands; Portrait of the Artist I; Portrait of the Artist II; The Hoard; Consolations for Double Bass; The Rich; Class; The Hawthorn in Trent Vale; Written on Water; The Marl Pits.

Translations and editions[edit]

Tomlinson was an authoritative translator of poetry from the Russian, Spanish and Italian, including work by Antonio Machado, Fyodor Tyutchev, César Vallejo and Attilio Bertolucci. He collaborated with the Mexican writer Octavio Paz. He edited the seminal Oxford Book of Verse in English Translation and the Selected Poems of William Carlos Williams. Other edited works include Marianne Moore: A Collection of Critical Essays, William Carlos Williams: A Critical Anthology, George Oppen: Selected Poems, Eros English'd: Classical Erotic Poetry in Translation from Golding to Hardy, and John Dryden: Poems Selected by Charles Tomlinson. A few of his best poems have also been translated into Greek by the poet Yannis Livadas.


  • Relations and Contraries, Hand and Flower Press, 1951
  • The Necklace', Fantasy Press, 1955; Oxford University Press,1966
  • Seeing is Believing, McDowell, Obolensky, 1958; Oxford University Press, 1960
  • A Peopled Landscape, Oxford University Press, 1963
  • American Scenes and Other Poems, Oxford University Press, 1966
  • The Way of a World, Oxford University Press, 1969
  • Penguin Modern Poets, with Alan Brownjohn and Michael Hamburger, Penguin 1969
  • America West Southwest, San Marcos Press, 1970
  • Renga: A Chain of Poems, with Octavio Paz, Jacques Roubaud, and Edoardo Sanguineti. (Braziller, 1971)
  • Written on Water, Oxford University Press, 1972
  • The Way In and Other Poems, Oxford University Press, 1974
  • In Black and White: The Graphics of Charles Tomlinson, Carcanet, 1975
  • The Shaft, Oxford University Press, 1978
  • Selected Poems 1951-1974, Oxford University Press, 1978
  • Airborn/Hijos del Aire, with Octavio Paz, Anvil Press,1981
  • Some Americans: A Personal Record, University of California Press, 1981
  • Poetry and Metamorphosis, Cambridge University Press, 1983
  • Notes from New York and Other Poems, Oxford University Press, 1984
  • Collected Poems, Oxford University Press, 1985, 1987
  • Eden: Graphics and Poetry, Redcliffe Press, 1985
  • The Return, Oxford University Press, 1987
  • Annunciations, Oxford University Press, 1989; Carcanet Press, 1999
  • The Door in the Wall, Oxford University Press, 1992; Carcanet Press, 1999
  • Jubilation, Oxford University Press, 1995
  • Selected Poems 1955-1997, Oxford University Press,1997; Carcanet Press, 1999)
  • The Vineyard Above the Sea, Carcanet Press, 1999)
  • American Essays: Making it New, Carcanet Press, 2001
  • Metamorphoses: Poetry and Translation, Carcanet Press, 2003
  • Skywriting Carcanet Pres, 2003
  • Cracks in the Universe, Carcanet Press, 2006
  • New Collected Poems, Carcanet Press, 2009


  • The complete volumes from "The Necklace" to "The Vineyard Above the Sea", Keele University, 1985-2000
  • "The Modern Age: A Conversation with Hugh Kenner", Keele University, 1988
  • "Charles Tomlinson Reads His Poems", Keele University, 1985
  • "Charles Tomlinson Reads His Stoke Poems", Keele University, 1985
  • "Charles Tomlinson Reads His Poems on Music", Keele University, 1987
  • "Charles Tomlinson Reads 'The Waste Land' by T.S.Eliot"," Keele University, 1989
  • "Octavio Paz talks to Charles Tomlinson," Keele University, 1989
  • "Charles Tomlinson Reads Machado and Tyutchev," Keele University, 1993
  • "Charles Tomlinson Reads Selected Poems by Attilio Bertolucci," Keele University, 1995

Further reading[edit]

  • O'Gorman, Kathleen. Charles Tomlinson: Man and Artist. University of Missouri Press, 1988
  • John, Brian. The World as Event: The Poetry of Charles Tomlinson. McGill-Queen's University Press, 1989
  • Swigg, Richard. Charles Tomlinson and the Objective Tradition. Bucknell University Press, 1994
  • Clark, Timothy. Charles Tomlinson. Northcote, 1999
  • Kirkham, Michael. Passionate Intellect: The Poetry of Charles Tomlinson. Liverpool University Press, 1999
  • Swigg, Richard. Look with the Ears: Charles Tomlinson's Poetry of Sound. Peter Lang, 2002
  • Saunders, Judith P. The Poetry of Charles Tomlinson: Border Lines. Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, 2003


  1. ^ Hopkins, David (25 August 2015). "Professor Charles Tomlinson, 1927-2015". University of Bristol. Retrieved 25 August 2015. 
  2. ^ a b "Charles Tomlinson - In Conversation With David Morley". 1991. Retrieved 2008-06-04. 
  3. ^ Ousby, Ian (1993). The Cambridge guide to literature in English, page 947. Cambridge University Press. Retrieved 29 October 2010. 
  4. ^ a b Schmidt, Michael: Lives of the Poets, page 641. Wiedenfeld and Nicolson, 2007.
  5. ^ a b Schmidt, Michael: Lives of the Poets, page 642. Wiedenfeld and Nicolson, 2007.

External links[edit]