August 1, 2011

Roy Fisher

Roy Fisher [England]

Born in Handsworth, Birmingham in 1930, British poet Roy Fisher grew up in Birmingham, attending the local grammar school the University of Birmingham. For a while he worked as teacher of English in various schools and colleges, notably at the University Keele, Staffordshire. Between 1963 and 1971, he was the Head of English and Drama at Bordesley College of Education. More recently Fisher has worked as a freelance writer and a jazz pianist.

Fisher began his literary career outside of the British environment, turning to the American poets William Carlos Williams and the poets of the Black Mountain school for inspiration. He began writing in the fifties, but his first book, City, was not published until 1961. Other books followed, and by 1969 he had already published a Collected Poems. His somewhat elusive poetry came to be more and more appreciated over the years, his work being published by major presses such as Bloodaxe, Carcanet, and Oxford University Press. Fisher is now considered a key figure in what has been described as the British Poetry Revival.

Fisher has described himself as "a Midlander, which is a very particular sort of race. It's supposed to be nowhere at all," and in these remarks can be detected a tension that runs through his poetry. On the one hand his writing is deeply rooted - Fisher acknowledges his almost Wordsworthian attachment to the city of his birth - on the other it refuses certainty and belonging. An essential quality in Fisher's aesthetic is openness - of form, subject and meaning - an attitude celebrated in his elegy for the poet, Asa Benveniste, "your eyebrows arched/so high as to hold/nothing excluded that might want in". This dynamic is seen most clearly in the West Midlands poems, and the attention Fisher pays to the in-between places, those disregarded industrial sites he knows so well: in 'Birmingham River' the waterway turns out to be not one, but two rivers, both of which, significantly, flow underground. The world is always various in Fisher, to be looked at from more than one angle. Elsewhere, his subject is perception itself as in his oblique sequence, 'Matrix', which he describes as an ink blot, open to interpretation. [paragraph quoted from The Poetry Archive/Britain]

In 2005 Fisher was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature.


City (Worcester, England: Migrant Press, 1961); The Ship's Orchestra (London: Fulcrum Press, 1966); Collected Poems 1968: The Ghost of a Paper Bag (London: Fulcrum Press, 1969); The Cut Pages (London: Fulcrum Press, 1971); Matrix (London: Fulcrum Press, 1971); selections in Widening Circles: Five Black Country Poets (Lowbury, Stafford, England: West Midland Arts, 1976); The Thing About Joe Sullivan: Poems 1971-1977 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1980); A Furnace (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1986); Poems 1955-1987 (Oxford: Oxford University Press); Birmingham River (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1994); The Dow Low Drop: New and Selected Poems (Newcastle-upon-Tyne, England: Bloodaxe, 1996); The Long and the Short of It: Poems 1955-2005 (Newcastle-upon-Tyne, England: Bloodaxe, 2005)

For an interview between Roy Fisher and John Tranter, click here:

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I am wondering whether you can help me please. I have a query about one of Roy Fisher's poems, the River Birmingham, see:

The line I am curious about is near the end of the poem: the rivers 'Ceased to draw lines that weren’t cancelled or unwanted; became drains, with no part in anybody’s plans'

I am not entirely clear what 'Ceased to draw lines that weren’t cancelled or unwanted' means, but would like to understand it. Can anyone help?
Many thanks,
Catherine @