John James (poet)

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John James (14 March 1939 – 14 May 2018) was a British poet.


John James was born 1939 in Cardiff and was educated at Saint Illtyd’s College there. He left the college in 1957 to read Philosophy and English Literature at the University of Bristol and later undertook postgraduate studies in American Literature at the University of Keele.[1] He was a founder of the poetry journal The Resuscitator in Bristol in 1963[2] and became Arts Council Creative Writing Fellow, at the University of Sussex, 1978–79. He is the former Head of Communication Studies at Anglia Ruskin University, Cambridge and is married to fellow poet Wendy Mulford, with whom he has one child.[2]

James is an important figure of the post-war British avant-garde. A poet, he came to prominence in the 1970s and has been associated with the Cambridge School of poetry, though, importantly, not with the British Poetry Revival. However, the relationship to the Cambridge School would do more to annex James from the mainstream of British poetry than to truly characterise his output, and it would do James a disservice to limit his appreciation by coralling him too firmly within the avant-garde; he is a genuinely popular poet of considerable power and stands outside of, or rather traverses, British camps and schools of the 1970s and 1980s.

His complexity and occasional gnomic later work is never beyond the bounds of a general reader and his excesses are a necessary feature derived from the social basis of much of the work, surveying Thatcher's Britain and the sense of decay and international relegation that many saw through the late 1970s and 1980s, as society collapsed and new social structures came to the fore. Despite this political context, James' work delights in the physical world and the gastronomic and aesthetic pleasures of life. His verse is filled with sensual delight.

James is an accessible and exceptional lyricist whose work stretches from political polemic,[citation needed] contemporary painting and the visual arts, philosophical investigation, homage and jeu d'esprit to pieces on place, nature, food, love, memory and loss. James' work is littered with anecdote, humour and delightful garrulousness, to the extent that he makes an ideal companion in the world of UK poetry.

James died on 14 May 2018.[3]


  • mmm … ah yes (1967)
  • The Welsh Poems (1967)
  • Trägheit (1968)
  • The Small Henderson Room (1969)
  • Letters from Sarah (1973)
  • Striking the Pavilion of Zero (1975)
  • A Theory of Poetry (1977)
  • War (1978)
  • A Former Boiling (1979)
  • Toasting (1979)
  • Inaugural Address (1979)
  • Berlin Return (1983)
  • Poem for Bruce McLean (1983)
  • Lines for Richard Long (1988)
  • The Ghost of Jimi Hendrix at Stokesay Castle (1988)
  • Local (1990)
  • Dreaming Flesh (1991)
  • Kinderlieder (1992)
  • Schlegel Eats a Bagel 1996
  • Collected Poems, Cambridge, UK: Salt, 2002
  • In Romsey Town, Cambridge, UK: Equipage, 2011


  1. ^ "John James". Salt Publishing. Archived from the original on 28 March 2012. Retrieved 29 January 2011.
  2. ^ a b "Resuscitator mss". Lilly Library Manuscript Collections. Retrieved 29 January 2011.
  3. ^ John James: Obituary