July 21, 2011

Tom Raworth

Tom Raworth [England]

Born in London, England in 1938, Tom Raworth was educated at St. Joseph's Academy in Blackheath, London. Between leaving school in 1954 and attending the University of Essex in 1967, Raworth under took several different jobs as an insurance clerk, a builders' laborer, a packer, assistant transport manager, and a continental telephone operator. In 1959 he taught himself how to set type and to print books, and between then and 1964 produced a magazine, Outburst, and a series of small books.

In 1965, in partnership with the painter and filmmaker Barry Hall, he started Goliard Press, working there until 1967, the year when it was taken over by Jonathan Cape. During this same period, Raworth began to publish poetry, and became an important figure in what was described as the British Poetry Revival.

That same year, Raworth attended the University of Essex, where he studied in Spanish and took his B.A. in Latin American Literature. He was awarded his Master's Degree in the Theory and Practice of Literary Translation in 1970, translating the work of Vicente Huidobro.

Over the next two years he visited the United States and Canada several times on reading tours, and from the autumn of 1972 until 1977 he lived in the US and, briefly, Mexico, teaching at Bowling Green State University, Northeastern Illinois University, and the University of Texas. For several years upon his return, Raworth lived with his wife, Margaret Valaire Murphy, and their five children in Cambridge. He has returned to the US several times to read and has traveled widely elsewhere.

Among Raworth's many books of poetry are The Relation Ship (1967), The Big Green Day (1968), A Serial Biography (1969 and 1977), Lion Lion (1970), Moving (1971), Act (1973), Ace (1974), Tottering State: Selected Poems, 1963-1983 (1984), Lazy Left Hand (1986), Visible Shivers (1987), Selected Poems 1963-1987 (1988), and Eternal Sections (1993). Later poetry has included Survival (1994), Clean & Well Lit (1996), Meadow (1999), Caller and Other Pieces (2007), Let Baby Fall (2008), Windmills in Flames (2010), and his 650-page Collected Poems, published in 2003.

Raworth's poetry shows the influences of the Black Mountain and the New York School poets, particularly the work of Robert Creeley and John Ashbery; but his poetry has also been influenced by European Dadaism and Surrealism. Close to numerous American poets, Raworth has also had an influence on American writers, particularly through his performances. Like his poetry, Raworth's performances are marked by quick and mercurial mental shifts. As Colin MacCabe has written in The Times Literary Supplement of Raworth's writing: "Raworth's minimal line, with rarely more than four words and little punctuation, is crucially important to the process of unfreezing the frame, of cutting across the certainties of eye and larynx.... We continue to read poetry within a culture which gives central importance to literary tradition, and to recognizable divisions between writers and readers. Raworth's poetry makes an implicit Utopian demand for a culture without such divisions, or such a centre."

Raworth currently lives in Brighton, Sussex.

Weapon Man [broadside] (London: Goliard Press, 1965); Continuation (London: Goliard Press, 1966); The Relation Ship (London: Goliard Press, 1967/ London: Cape Goliard/Grossman, 1969); The Big Green Day (London: Trigram Press, 1968); Haiku (with John Esam and Anselm Hollo) (London: Trigram Press, 1968); Lion Lion (London: Trigram Press, 1970); Moving (London: Grossman, 1971); Penguin Modern Poets 19 [with John Ashbery and Lee Harwood] (Harmondsworth, England: Penguin, 1971); Tracking (Bowling Green, Ohio: Doones Press, 1972); Pleasant Butter (Northampton, Massachusetts: Sand Project Press, 1972); Act (London: Trigram Press, 1973); Here (printed privately, 1973); An Interesting Picture of Ohio (printed privately, 1973); Back to Nature (London: Joe DiMaggio Press, 1993); Ace (London: Trigram Press, 1974/Great Barrington, Massachusetts: The Figures, 1977); Bolivia: Another End of Ace (London: Secret Books, 1974); That More Simple Natural Time Tone Distortion (Storrs: University of Connecticut Press, 1975); Cloister (Northampton, Massachusetts: Sand Project Press, 1975); Common Sense (San Francisco: Zephyrus Image, 1976); Energy Gap (Chicago: Ommation Press, 1976); The Mask (Berkeley, California: Poltroon Press, 1976); Sky Tails (Lobby Press, 1978); Nicht Wahr, Rosie?: Miscellaneous Poems 1964-1969 (Berkeley, California: Poltroon Press, 1979); Four Door Guide (Cambridge, United Kingdom: Street Editions, 1979); Heavy Light (Deal, Kent, England: Transgravity Press, 1979); Writing (Great Barrington, Massachusetts: The Figures, 1982); Levre de Poche (Bull City Press, 1983); Tractor Parts [broadside] (Peterborough, United Kingdom: Spectacular Diseases, 1984); Tottering State: Selected and New Poems 1963-1983 (Great Barrington, Massachusetts: The Figures, 1984/expanded edition, London: Paladin Books, 1988/Oakland, California: O Books, 2000); Lazy Left Hands: Notes from 1970-1975 (Actual Size, 1986); Visible Shivers (Oakland, California: O Books, 1987); Sentenced He Gives a Shape (La Laguna, Canary Islands: Zasterle Press, 1989); Twenty-five Poems and One Picture (London: Nipping Press, 1990); from Eternal Sections (Dublin: Hardpressed Poetry, 1990); All Fours (London: Microbrigade, 1991); Catacoustics (Cambridge, United Kingdom: Street Editions, 1991); The Vein (Great Barrington, Massachusetts: The Figures, 1992); Blue Screen (Cambridge: Equipage, 1992); Eternal Sections (Los Angeles: Sun & Moon Press, 1993); Emptily [with drawings by Suzanne McClelland] (Great Barrington, Massachusetts: The Figures, 1994); Survival (Cambridge: Equipage, 1994); Frames (Giona Editions, 1995); Muted Hawks (Berkeley, California: Poltroon Press, 1995); Silent Rows (Great Barrington, Massachusetts: The Figures, 1995); Clean & Well Lit: Selected Poems, 1987-1995 (New York: Roof Books, 1996); Firewall (Devon, United Kingdom: Etruscan Books, 1997); Meadow (Sausalito, California: Post-Apollo,1999); Collected Poems (Manchester, United Kingdom: Carcanet, 2003); Caller and Other Pieces (Washington, D.C.: Edge Books, 2006); Earn Your Milk (Cambridge, 2009)

For Tom Raworth's Electronic Poetry Center page, click below:

For Tom Raworth's homepage, click here:

For an extensive audio selection of Raworth's own readings, click below:

For a video of Raworth reading "The Vein" click here:

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