Tom Raworth

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Tom Raworth, photographed by Gloria Graham during the video taping of Add-Verse, 2003

Thomas Moore Raworth (born 19 July 1938),[1] known as Tom Raworth, is a poet and visual artist who has published over forty books of poetry and prose since 1966. His work has been translated and published in many countries. Raworth is a key figure in the British Poetry Revival. He lives in Hove, England.

Early life and work[edit]

Raworth was born in Bexleyheath in North-West Kent and grew up in Welling, the neighbouring town. He was educated at St.Stephen's Primary School, Welling, Kent (1943–1949); St Joseph's Academy, Blackheath, London S.E.3. (1949–1954); University of Essex, Colchester, Essex (1967–1970).He left school at the age of sixteen and worked at a variety of jobs. In the early 1960s he started a magazine called Outburst in which he published a number of British and American poets including Ed Dorn, Allen Ginsberg and LeRoi Jones. He also founded Matrix Press at this time, publishing small books by Dorn, David Ball,[2] Piero Heliczer and others.

In 1965, while working as an operator at the international telephone exchange, Raworth and Barry Hall set up Goliard Press (later Cape Goliard), which published, amongst others, Charles Olson's first British collection. These ventures into publishing made a major contribution to British interest to the new American poetry of the 1960s.

Development as a poet[edit]

His first book, The Relation Ship (1966), won the Alice Hunt Bartlett Prize. Donald Davie admired the book and encouraged Raworth to resume his formal education. Raworth attended the University of Essex from 1967–70, though he grew bored with formal study and never completed the course he had originally signed up for. Raworth studied Spanish for a year and then translated the work of Vicente Huidobro and other Latin American poets for his M.A..

In the 1970s, he worked in the United States and Mexico, first teaching in universities in Ohio, Chicago and Texas, and later living in San Francisco where he was involved with the Zephyrus Image press. After six years abroad he returned with his family to England in 1977 to take up the post of resident poet in King's College, Cambridge for a year. In 2007 he was awarded the Antonio Delfini prize for lifetime achievement, in Modena, Italy. He now lives in Brighton, Sussex.

His early poetry showed the influences of the Black Mountain and New York School poets, particularly Robert Creeley and John Ashbery together with strands from European poetry (Apollinaire), Dada, and Surrealism. His 1974 book Ace saw Raworth move to a more disjunctive style, built from short, unpunctuated lines that entice the reader into following multiple syntactic possibilities, as they knit together everything from observations of the everyday to self-reflexive commentary on the acts of thinking and writing, to affectionate lifts from pulp fiction and film noir, to political satire. A series of long poems in this mode followed—after Ace came Writing (composed 1975–77; published 1982), Catacoustics (composed 1978–81; published 1991) and West Wind (composed 1982–83; published 1984). Subsequent projects have extended this mode into a kaleidoscopic sequence of 14-line poems (not exactly "sonnets") that extended through "Sentenced to Death" (in Visible Shivers, 1987), Eternal Sections (1993) and Survival (1994). Later collections include Clean & Well Lit (1996), Meadow (1999), Caller and Other Pieces (2007), Let Baby Fall (2008) and Windmills in Flames (2010). Raworth's 650-page Collected Poems was published in 2003, though a number of major works remain uncollected, and a collection of prose Earn your Milk was published in 2009 which includes the uncategorizable long out-of-print A Serial Biography (1969), a uniquely vertiginous patchwork of autobiography and fiction.

Several boxes of Raworth's notebooks, typescripts, and correspondence (ca. 1968–1977) are held at the University of Connecticut's Dodd Research Center.[3]


  1. ^ "Weekend birthdays". The Guardian. Guardian Media. 19 July 2014. p. 52. 
  2. ^ David Ball biography at Smith College
  3. ^ Raworth archive at University of Connecticut

Performance and collaboration[edit]

Raworth gives regular readings of his work in Europe and the U.S. and most recently in China and Mexico. He has made a number of recordings and videos. His readings are noted for his speed of delivery. He has long been interested in collaborative work and has created performance events and texts in collaboration with musicians such as Steve Lacy, Joëlle Léandre, Giancarlo Locatelli, Peter Brötzmann and Steve Nelson-Raney; other poets, including Jim Koller, Anselm Hollo, Gregory Corso, Dario Villa and Franco Beltrametti; and painters including Joe Brainard, Jim Dine, Giovanni D'Agostino and Micaëla Henich. In 1991, he was the first European writer in 30 years to be invited to teach at the University of Cape Town and he has taught occasional semesters in the United States. He has also worked with his wife, Val Raworth.

His visual art consists mainly of drawings, collage and found art and has been exhibited in Italy, France, South Africa, and the United States.

Raworth and Ireland[edit]

Raworth has strong Irish connections. His mother's family lived in the same house in Dublin as Seán O'Casey at the time that the playwright was working on Juno and the Paycock. In 1990, he took out an Irish passport.

See also[edit]

External links[edit]