Dannie Abse

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Dannie Abse

Dannie Abse.jpg
Born(1923-09-22)22 September 1923
Cardiff, Wales
Died28 September 2014(2014-09-28) (aged 91)
Notable awards
SpouseJoan Abse

Daniel Abse, CBE FRSL (22 September 1923 – 28 September 2014) was a Welsh poet and physician.[1] His poetry won him many awards. As a medic, he worked in a chest clinic for over thirty years.

Early years[edit]

Abse was born in Cardiff, Wales, to a Jewish family. He was the younger brother of politician and reformer Leo Abse and the eminent psychoanalyst, Wilfred Abse. Unusually for a middle-class Jewish boy, Dannie Abse attended St Illtyd's College, a working-class Catholic school in Splott. Abse studied medicine, first at the University of Wales College of Medicine, and then at Westminster Hospital Medical School and King's College London.[1]

Abse was a passionate supporter of Cardiff City football club. He first went to watch them play in 1934 and many of his writings refer to his experiences watching and lifelong love of the team known as "The Bluebirds".[citation needed]

Career as poet[edit]

Although best known as a poet, Abse worked in the medical field, and was a physician in a chest clinic for over thirty years.[2] He received numerous literary awards and fellowships for his writing. In 1989, he received an honorary doctorate from the University of Wales.[citation needed]

His first volume of poetry, After Every Green Thing, was published in 1949.[3] His autobiographic work, Ash on a Young Man's Sleeve, was published in 1954. He won the Welsh Arts Council Award in both 1971 and 1987, and the Cholmondeley Award in 1985. He was a Fellow of The Royal Society of Literature from 1983. In a foreword to Collected Poems 1948–1976, Abse noted that his poems are increasingly "rooted in actual experience," both domestic and professional, and many display a reconciliation between Jewish and Welsh themes and traditions.[4]

Abse lived for several decades in the north-west area of London, mainly near Hampstead, where he had considerable ties. For several years he wrote a column for the local Hampstead and Highgate Express. These articles subsequently appeared in book form.[citation needed]

In 2005, his wife Joan was killed in a car accident, while Abse suffered a broken rib. His poetry collection, Running Late, was published in 2006, and The Presence, a memoir of the year after his wife died, was published in 2007; it won the 2008 Wales Book of the Year award.[3] The book was later dramatised for BBC Radio 4. He was awarded the Roland Mathias prize for Running Late.[5]

In 2009, Abse brought out a volume of collected poetry. In the same year, he received the Wilfred Owen Poetry Award. Abse was a judge for the inaugural 2010 Hippocrates Prize for Poetry and Medicine. Abse was appointed Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in the 2012 New Year Honours for services to poetry and literature.[6]

Abse died on 28 September 2014, six days after his 91st birthday.[1]


  • After Every Green Thing Hutchinson, 1948
  • Walking Under Water Hutchinson, 1952
  • Fire in Heaven Hutchinson, 1956
  • Mavericks: An Anthology (editor with Howard Sergeant) Editions Poetry and Poverty, 1957
  • Tenants of the House: Poems 1951–1956 Hutchinson, 1957
  • Poems, Golders Green Hutchinson, 1962
  • Poems! Dannie Abse: A Selection Vista/Dufour, 1963
  • Modern European Verse (editor) Vista, 1964
  • Medicine on Trial Aldus, 1967
  • Three Questor Plays Scorpion, 1967
  • A Small Desperation Hutchinson, 1968
  • Demo Sceptre, 1969
  • Selected Poems Hutchinson, 1970
  • Modern Poets in Focus 1 (editor) Corgi, 1971
  • Modern Poets in Focus 3 (editor) Corgi, 1971
  • Thirteen Poets (editor) Poetry Book Society, 1972
  • Funland and Other Poems Hutchinson, 1973
  • Modern Poets in Focus 5 (editor) Corgi, 1973
  • The Dogs of Pavlov Vallentine, Mitchell, 1973
  • A Poet in the Family Hutchinson, 1974
  • Penguin Modern Poets 26 (Dannie Abse, D. J. Enright and Michael Longley) Penguin, 1975
  • Collected Poems 1948–1976 Hutchinson, 1977
  • More Words BBC, 1977
  • My Medical School Robson, 1978
  • Pythagoras Hutchinson, 1979
  • Way Out in the Centre Hutchinson, 1981
  • A Strong Dose of Myself Hutchinson, 1983
  • One-legged on ice: poems University of Georgia Press, 1983
  • Doctors and Patients (editor) Oxford University Press, 1984
  • Ask the Bloody Horse Hutchinson, 1986
  • Journals From the Ant Heap Hutchinson, 1986
  • Voices in the Gallery: Poems and Pictures (editor with Joan Abse) Tate Gallery, 1986
  • The Music Lover's Literary Companion (editor with Joan Abse) Robson, 1988
  • The Hutchinson Book of Post-War British Poetry (editor) Hutchinson, 1989
  • White Coat, Purple Coat: Collected Poems 1948–1988 Hutchinson, 1989
  • People (contributor) National Language Unit of Wales, 1990
  • Remembrance of Crimes Past: Poems 1986–1989 Hutchinson, 1990
  • The View from Row G: Three Plays Seren, 1990
  • Intermittent Journals Seren, 1994
  • On the Evening Road Hutchinson, 1994
  • Selected Poems Penguin, 1994
  • The Gregory Anthology 1991–1993 (editor with A. Stevenson) Sinclair-Stevenson, 1994
  • Twentieth-Century Anglo-Welsh Poetry (editor) Seren, 1997
  • Welsh Retrospective Seren, 1997
  • Arcadia, One Mile Hutchinson, 1998
  • Be seated, thou: poems 1989–1998 Sheep Meadow Press, 1999
  • Encounters Hearing Eye, 2001
  • Goodbye, Twentieth Century: An Autobiography Pimlico, 2001
  • New and Collected Poems Hutchinson, 2002
  • The Two Roads Taken: A Prose Miscellany Enitharmon Press, 2003
  • Yellow Bird Sheep Meadow Press, 2004
  • Running Late Hutchinson, 2006
  • 100 Great Poems of Love and Lust: Homage to Eros (compiler and editor) Robson, 2007
  • The Presence Hutchinson, 2007
  • New Selected Poems 1949–2009: Anniversary Collection Hutchinson, 2009 (shortlisted for the Ted Hughes Award for New Work in Poetry)
  • Speak, Old Parrot Hutchinson, 2013


  • Ash on a Young Man's Sleeve (Hutchinson, 1954)
  • Some Corner of an English Field (Hutchinson, 1956)
  • O Jones, O Jones (Hutchinson, 1970)
  • There Was A Young Man From Cardiff (Hutchinson, 1991)
  • The Strange Case of Dr Simmonds & Dr Glas (Robson, 2002)


  • Fire in Heaven (produced London, 1948), retitled Is the House Shut (1964) and In the Cage (1967)
  • Hands Around the Wall (produced London, 1950)
  • House of Cowards (produced London, 1960)
  • The Eccentric (produced London, 1961)
  • Gone (produced London, 1962)
  • The Joker (produced, London, 1962), retitled The Courting of Essie Glass (1981)
  • The Dogs of Pavlov (produced London, 1969)
  • Funland (produced London, 1975)
  • Pythagoras (produced Birmingham, 1976), retitled Pythagoras (Smith)[7]

Published collections of plays[edit]

  • — (1967). Three Questor Plays. Lowestoft Suffolk: Scorpion Press. ISBN 9780851030104. – includes House of Cowards, Gone and In the Cage[8]
  • — (1990). The view from Row G: three plays. Bridgend: Seren. ISBN 1854110225. – includes House of Cowards, The Dogs of Pavlov and Pythagoras (Smith)[9]

Radio plays[edit]

  • Conform or Die (1957)
  • No Telegrams, No Thunder (1962)
  • You Can't Say Hello to Anybody (1964)
  • A Small Explosion (1964)
  • The Courting of Elsie Glass (1975)



  1. ^ a b c "Dannie Abse – obituary". The Telegraph. 28 September 2014. Retrieved 21 January 2016.
  2. ^ Goldbeck-Wood, Sandy (13 December 2014). "Dannie Abse – Last act in the theatre of disease" (PDF). British Medical Journal: 25.
  3. ^ a b Dannie Abse Archived 6 June 2011 at the Wayback Machine
  4. ^ The Oxford Companion to English Literature, 6th edition, edited by Margaret Drabble (Oxford, UK: OUP, 2000), p. 2.
  5. ^ "Dannie Abse". Poetry Foundation. Retrieved 6 August 2012.
  6. ^ "No. 60009". The London Gazette (Supplement). 31 December 2011. p. 6.
  7. ^ Kerbel, Sorrel (2004). "Abse, Dannie". The Routledge Encyclopedia of Jewish Writers of the Twentieth Century. Routledge. pp. 43–45. ISBN 978-1-135-45607-8.
  8. ^ Sicher, Efraim (1 February 2012). Beyond Marginality: Anglo-Jewish Literature After the Holocaust. SUNY Press. p. 213. ISBN 978-1-4384-1994-7.
  9. ^ "The View from Row G". Seren Books. Retrieved 22 April 2020.
  10. ^ Riggs, Thomas (2001). Contemporary Poets (Seventh ed.). St. James Press. p. 1. ISBN 1558623493.

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]