Jenny Joseph

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Jenny Joseph FRSL (7 May 1932 – 8 January 2018) was an English poet.

Life and career[edit]

When I am an old woman I shall wear purple
With a red hat which doesn't go, and doesn't suit me.
And I shall spend my pension on brandy and summer gloves
And satin sandals, and say we've no money for butter.
I shall sit down on the pavement when I'm tired
And gobble up samples in shops and press alarm bells
And run my stick along the public railings
And make up for the sobriety of my youth.

From "Warning" (1961)

She was born in Birmingham and, with a scholarship, studied English literature at St Hilda's College, Oxford (1950).[1] Her poems were first published when she was at university in the early 1950s.[2] She became a journalist and worked for the Bedfordshire Times, the Oxford Mail and Drum Publications (Johannesburg, South Africa).

Joseph's best known poem, "Warning", was written in 1961, first published in The Listener in 1962, and later included in her 1974 collection Rose In the Afternoon, in The Oxford Book of Twentieth Century English Verse, and in her Selected Poems (1992). "Warning" was identified as the UK's "most popular post-war poem" in a 1996 poll by the BBC. The second line was the inspiration for the Red Hat Society.[3] Due to its popularity, an illustrated gift edition of "Warning", first published by Souvenir Press Ltd in 1997, has now been reprinted 41 times.[4]

Her first book of poems, The Unlooked-for Season, won a Gregory Award in 1960 and she won a Cholmondeley Award for her second collection, Rose in the Afternoon, in 1974.

Awards and honours[edit]


  • Unlooked-for Season (1960 – winner of a Gregory Award)
  • Rose in the Afternoon (1974 – winner of a Cholmondeley Award)
  • The Thinking Heart (1978)
  • Beyond Descartes (1983)
  • Persephone (1986 – fiction in verse and prose)
  • Beached Boats (1992 – prose)
  • The Inland Sea (1992)
  • Selected Poems (1992) – which includes ("Warning")
  • Ghosts and Other Company (1996)
  • Extended Similes (1997 – prose fiction)
  • Warning (1997, illustrated gift edition)
  • All the Things I See (2000)
  • Led by the Nose (2002)
  • Extreme of Things (2006)
  • Nothing Like Love (2009)


  1. ^ "Jenny Joseph -". Archived from the original on 30 July 2013. Retrieved 28 December 2016.
  2. ^ Couzyn, Jeni. Contemporary Women Poets. Bloodaxe. 1985 p166
  3. ^ Archived 2012-07-17 at the Wayback Machine
  4. ^ "Warning: When I am an Old Woman I Shall Wear Purple". Retrieved 28 December 2016.
  5. ^ "Royal Society of Literature All Fellows". Royal Society of Literature. Archived from the original on 5 March 2010. Retrieved 9 August 2010.

External links[edit]