Jon Stallworthy

Jon Stallworthy is the author of several books of poems, one of which is A Familiar Tree, and of a biography of Wilfred Owen. He is Anderson Professor of English at Cornell University.

Poem: ‘From the Life’

Jon Stallworthy, 28 May 1992

‘All this takes place on a hilly island in the Mediterranean,’ Picasso said. ‘Like Crete. That’s where the minotaurs live, along the coast. They’re the rich Seigneurs of the island. They know they’re monsters and they live, like dandies and dilettantes everywhere, the kind of existence that reeks of decadence in houses filled with works of art by the most...

A Life of Henry Reed

Jon Stallworthy, 12 September 1991

The author of ‘Naming of Parts’, probably the most anthologised English poem of the Second War, has too often been held to be that and that only. Like Julian Grenfell, author of ‘Into Battle’, he is seen as the saddest freak of the literary fairground: the one-poem poet. The publication of his collected poems will give the lie to that gross misperception.

Poem: ‘The Voice from the Bridge’

Jon Stallworthy, 7 February 1991

For Gail and Zellman Warhaft and in memory of Sasha Warhaft 1985-1988

All I can hope is that the voice of Kavadias may be heard, however faintly, from the bridge on a dark night somewhere in the Indian Ocean.

Gail Holst Warhaft, translator: The Collected Poems of Nikos Kavadias


Tonight, as the tropic day drops its sailand flocks of marabou are flying west,I’m needled by a need...

Poem: ‘The Nutcracker’

Jon Stallworthy, 17 September 1987

for Isaiah Berlin

My story? Yes, I got my story though not the one I was assigned. It was a Voyage of Discovery all right, but of another kind. The latest Russian Revolution was no sooner known than it– whoosh– un- corked Moscow like shaken champagne, filled Red Square to the brim again with chanting thousands. When Apollo appeared on the balcony, they let out a shout heard miles...

When wing to wing, feather by feather, the rooks were piecing night together, I took the ring the iron-lipped iron-lidded lion gripped and tapped the call-sign on his hide. He knew me, nodded, moved aside, and as the light fell through the door I walked into your head once more.

I could distinguish, layer by layer, each constituent of the air: vellum and beeswax; apple, oak, and elm gone up...

Untouched by Eliot: Jon Stallworthy

Denis Donoghue, 4 March 1999

‘Why should the parent of one or two legitimate poems make a public display of the illegitimate offspring of his apprentice years?’ Jon Stallworthy asks in the afterword to Singing...

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Smartened Up

Ian Hamilton, 9 March 1995

Why did Louis MacNeice have to wait thirty years for a biography? He died comparatively young – aged 55 – and was outlived by almost everyone he knew: wives, girlfriends, classmates,...

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Part and Pasture

Frank Kermode, 5 December 1991

Henry Reed was a sad man but a funny man, and his poems are funny or sad – often, as in the celebrated ‘Lessons of the War’, both at once. I first met him in 1965, in the office...

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Players, please

Jonathan Bate, 6 December 1984

The Great War was the war of the great war poets. Was ‘the war to end all wars’ also the war to end all war poetry? The best part of Jon Stallworthy’s introduction to his Oxford...

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Charmed Life

John Bayley, 15 September 1983

The poet Blok once wrote about the ‘gloomy roll-call’ in Russian history of tyrants and executioners, ‘and opposite them a single bright name – Pushkin’. Quite true....

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