James Fenton born 25 April 1949
James Fenton has been, at various times, a journalist, poet, literary critic, and professor.
Fenton grew up in Lincolnshire and Staffordshire. He was educated at Repton School, where he grew fond of the work of W H Auden, who proved to be the greatest influence of Fenton's own output. After graduating from Repton, Fenton attendended Magdalen College, Oxford to study English. He was already experimenting with and winning prizes for his poetry. He earned a BA from Magdalen in 1970.
His first collection, Terminal Moraine (1972) was well received and won a Gregory Award. He used the money to travel to the Far East where he witnessed the aftermath of America's withdrawal from Vietnam and the collapse of the Lon Nol regime in Cambodia which presaged the rise of Pol Pot. In 1976 Fenton returned to London and became political correspondent for the New Statesman. The Memory of War (1982), drawing on his experience in the Far East, secured his reputation as one of the finest poets of his generation and marked the climax of a new generation of English poets. He won the Geoffrey Faber Memorial Prize in 1984 for Children in Exile: Poems 1968-1984 and in 1994 Fenton became Professor of Poetry at Oxford, a position he held until 1999. He is currently a regular contributor to the The New York Review of Books and The Guardian.
Fenton's unsettling use of traditional form to confront contemporary events, combined with images of comedy and violence is evident in poems such as Out of the East and The Ballad of the Shrieking Man. Nonsense verse has always formed a part of Fenton's output and in these poems he employs its metrical and linguistic energy to explore the nightmarish scenarios of war; the jaunty rhythms of Kipling turned into the hysteria of apocalypse. Alongside these are more personal poems of love and regret such as In Paris with You which teeters beautifully between irony and romance.
Fenton worked on the New Statesman with Martin Amis, Christopher Hitchens and Ian McEwan during the 1970s. He remains friends with them all.
Fenton's Selected Poems was published in February 2006 by Penguin and in October 2006 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux. He also recently edited The New Faber Book of Love Poems.
On 23 April 2007 it was announced from Buckingham Palace that he had been awarded The Queen's Gold Medal for Poetry for 2007. In May 2007 he was placed on the list of the 100 most influential gay and lesbian people in Britain by The Independent.
His partner is Darryl Pinckney, a writer.
James Fenton - Official Website
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