Charles Tomlinson

For the Victorian era scientist, see Charles Tomlinson (scientist).

Alfred Charles Tomlinson, CBE (8 January 1927 – 22 August 2015) was a British poet, translator, academic and illustrator. [1] He was born in Penkhull, and grew up in Basford, Stoke-on-Trent, Staffordshire.[2]


After attending Longton High School, Tomlinson read English at Queens' College, Cambridge, where he studied with Donald Davie. After leaving university he taught for several years in Camden Town, London, followed by a brief period as secretary to Percy Lubbock in Italy, before returning to London as an M.A. student at London University. He taught for thirty-six years in the English Department of Bristol University where he became Emeritus Professor. He was also a graphic artist, and In Black and White: The Graphics of Charles Tomlinson, with an introduction by Nobel prize-winner Octavio Paz, was published in 1975 and was the focus of a December 1975 edition of the BBC television series Arena.


Tomlinson's first book of poetry was published in 1951, and his Collected Poems was published by the Oxford University Press in 1985, followed by the Selected Poems: 1955-1997 in 1997. His poetry won international recognition and received many prizes in Europe and the United States, including the 1993 Bennett Award from Hudson Review; the New Criterion Poetry Prize, 2002; the Premio Internazionale di Poesie Ennio Flaiano, 2001; and the Premio Internazionale di Poesia Attilio Bertolucci, 2004. He was an Honorary Fellow of the American Academy of the Arts and Sciences and of the Modern Language Association. Charles Tomlinson was made a CBE in 2001 for his contribution to literature. Charles Tomlinson's Selected Poems, his collections Skywriting, Metamorphoses and The Vineyard Above the Sea, amongst others, are all published by Carcanet Press. His latest collection Cracks in the Universe was published in May 2006 in Carcanet Press' Oxford Poets series.

In his book Some Americans Tomlinson acknowledges his poetic debts to modern American poetry, in particular William Carlos Williams, George Oppen, Marianne Moore, and Louis Zukofsky, as well as artists like Georgia O'Keeffe and Arshile Gorky. In his critical study Lives of Poets, Michael Schmidt observes that 'Wallace Stevens was the guiding star [Tomlinson] initially steered by'.[3] Schmidt goes on to define the two characteristic voices of Tomlinson: 'one is intellectual, meditative, feeling its way through ideas' whilst the other voice engages with 'landscapes and images from the natural world'.[4] Tomlinson's poetry often circles around these themes of place and return, exploring his native landscape of Stoke and the shifting cityscape of modern Bristol.[3] In Against Extremity Tomlinson expresses a distrust of confessional verse and rejects the 'willed extremism of poets like Sylvia Plath and Anne Sexton'.[4]

From 1985 to 2000 he recorded all of his published poetry for Keele University as well as his translations (with Henry Gifford) of poetry by Antonio Machado and Fyodor Tyutchev. He also recorded 'The Waste Land' by T. S. Eliot. All these recordings, apart from 'The Waste Land,' but including Tomlinson's interviews with Octavio Paz, Hugh Kenner and Sean Street, can be heard online on the Charles Tomlinson page of PennSound, University of Pennsylvania.

Translations and editions

Tomlinson was an authoritative translator of poetry from the Russian, Spanish and Italian, including work by Antonio Machado, Fyodor Tyutchev, César Vallejo and Attilio Bertolucci. He collaborated with Octavio Paz, Jacques Roubaud and Edoardo Sanguinetti in the writing of 'Renga,' and with Paz alone in the writing of 'Airborn/Hijos del Aire.' He edited 'The Oxford]] Book of Verse in English Translation and the Selected Poems of William Carlos Williams. Other edited works include Marianne Moore: A Collection of Critical Essays, William Carlos Williams: A Critical Anthology, George Oppen: Selected Poems, Eros English'd: Classical Erotic Poetry in Translation from Golding to Hardy, and John Dryden: Poems Selected by Charles Tomlinson. His poetry has been translated into Spanish by Jordi Doce, into Italian by Edoardo Zuccato, into French by Michele Duclos, and into Greek by Yannis Livadas.



Further reading


  1. Hopkins, David (25 August 2015). "Professor Charles Tomlinson, 1927-2015". University of Bristol. Retrieved 25 August 2015.
  2. "Charles Tomlinson - In Conversation With David Morley". 1991. Retrieved 2008-06-04.
  3. 1 2 Schmidt, Michael: Lives of the Poets, page 641. Wiedenfeld and Nicolson, 2007.
  4. 1 2 Schmidt, Michael: Lives of the Poets, page 642. Wiedenfeld and Nicolson, 2007.

External links

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