Elizabeth Joan Jennings was an English poet.

Life and Career

Elizabeth was born in Boston, Lincolnshire, England in July 18, 1926. Her father was a respected Chief Medical Officer who moved the family to Oxford when she was six years old. She later discovered poetry while attending the Oxford high school.

After attending St Anne's College, Oxford, Elizabeth became a librarian at Oxford city library. Having more time to focus on her writing she published her first collection of poetry (1953) which drew the attention of Robert Conquest. Mr. Conquest would later publish her work with the likes of famous authors Kingsley Amis, Philip Larkin, Thom Gunn and others in his 1956 "New Lines Anthology", which would later become known as "The Movement".

Throughout the 1960's, Elizabeth was one of the most popular poets in England. She never married and published a great number of works. Elizabeth once said, "I write fast and revise very little".


"The radiance of the star that leans on me
Was shining years ago. The light that now
Glitters up there my eyes may never see,
And so the time lag teases me with how

Love that loves now may not reach me until
Its first desire is spent. The star's impulse
Must wait for eyes to claim it beautiful
And love arrived may find us somewhere else."

Regarded as traditionalist rather than an innovator, Jennings is known for her lyric poetry and mastery of form. Her work displays a simplicity of metre and rhyme shared with Philip Larkin, Kingsley Amis and Thom Gunn, all members of the group of English poets known as The Movement. She always made it clear that, whilst her life, which included a spell of severe mental illness, contributed to the themes contained within her work, she did not write explicitly autobiographical poetry. Her deeply held Roman Catholicism coloured much of her work.

She died in a care home in Bampton, Oxfordshire and is buried in Wolvercote Cemetery, Oxford.

Selected Awards and Honours

1953: Arts Council of Great Britain Prize for the best first book of poems for Poems
1955: Somerset Maugham Prize for A Way of Looking.
1987: W.H. Smith Literary Award for Collected Poems 1953–1985
1992: Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE)
2001: Honorary Doctorate of Divinity from Durham University

Elizabeth Jennings's Works:

Poetry collections

Poems. Oxford: Fantasy Press, 1953
A Way of Looking. London: André Deutsch, 1955
A Sense of the World. London: André Deutsch, 1958
Song For a Birth or a Death. London: André Deutsch, 1961
The Sonnets of Michelangelo (translated by Jennings). London: Folio Society, 1961
Recoveries. London: André Deutsch, 1964
The Mind has Mountains. London: Macmillan, 1966
The Secret Brother and Other Poems for Children. London: Macmillan, 1966
Collected Poems 1967. London: Macmillan, 1967
The Animals' Arrival. London: Macmillan, 1969
Lucidities. London: Macmillan, 1970
Relationships. London: Macmillan, 1972
Growing Points. Cheadle: Carcanet, 1975
Consequently I Rejoice. Cheadle: Carcanet, 1977
After the Ark. Oxford University Press, 1978
Selected Poems. Cheadle: Carcanet, 1979
Moments of Grace. Manchester: Carcanet, 1980
Celebrations and Elegies. Manchester: Carcanet, 1982
Extending the Territory. Manchester: Carcanet, 1985
Collected Poems 1953-1985. Manchester: Carcanet, 1986
Tributes. Manchester: Carcanet, 1989
Times and Seasons. Manchester: Carcanet, 1992
Familiar Spirits. Manchester: Carcanet, 1994
In the Meantime. Manchester: Carcanet, 1996
A Spell of Words: Selected Poems for Children. London: Macmillan, 1997
Praises. Manchester: Carcanet, 1998
Timely Issues. Manchester: Carcanet, 2001
New Collected Poems. Manchester: Carcanet, 2001
Elizabeth Jennings: The Collected Poems. Manchester: Carcanet, 2012

Poems by Elizabeth Jennings

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