This course explores some of the rich and varied British poetry written and published between 1945 and the present. 

Spring Term: 1965 – 1990

Last term we looked at how poetry responded to the second world war and the post-war context: Dylan Thomas, R S Thomas, Philip Larkin, as well as two very distinctive and charged visions of the poetic muse in Ted Hughes and Sylvia Plath. This Spring term begins in the sixties but with an embrace of contemporary popular culture: The Mersey Sound of Adrian Henri, Roger McGough and Brian Patten, before going on to explore three very different kinds of challenge to poetic conventions: Stevie Smith, Tony Harrison and John Agard. We’ll finish the term with a look at two poets whose writing spans much of our period and tests its boundaries:  Derek Walcott born in 1930 in St Lucia in the Caribbean and Sylvia Townsend Warner, whose writing career spans from the late 1920s to 1978 (the year of her death), a perspective that will allow us to look back at where we’ve come from and draw together many of the preoccupations in the poetry we’ve been reading.

Books for the Spring Term : 1965 – 90:

Here’s a list of the poetry that we’ll be reading next term in the order in which we’ll be reading it. TRY TO GET AS MANY AS POSSIBLE FROM THE HIGHGATE BOOKSHOP, 020 8348 8202.

Weeks 1 and 2

Adrian Henri 1932-2000, Roger McGough b.1937, Brian Patten, b.1946, The Mersey Sound (Penguin Modern Classics, 2007) [first published in 1967]

Weeks 2 and 3

Stevie Smith 1902-71, Selected Poems, edited by James MacGibbon (Penguin Modern Classics, 2002).  You can read a number of her poems at PoemHunter

Weeks 4 and 5

Tony Harrison b.1937, Selected Poems (Penguin, 2013). Watch the film of V at YouTube

Week 6

John  Agard , b.1949, Alternative Anthems(Bloodaxe, 2009 and includes CD of Agard performing the poems). You can listen to Agard reading various of his poems including a link to a reading of ‘Listen Mr Oxford Don’ at the Poetry Archive

Weeks 7 and 8

Derek Walcott, b.1930. Selected Poems (Faber and Faber, 2009) – do get this edition, I’ve chosen it because it is a selection of Walcott’s earlier poetry from the 50s to the 70s.

Weeks 9 and 10

Sylvia Townsend Warner 1893-1978 Selected Poems (Carcanet Press, 1991) Hear her read ‘Gloriana Dying’ at There’s also an interesting piece on R4’s Woman’s Hour at