Selected Poems by John Fowles

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...his words are rarely charged in ways that might enlarge and enliven the mind or the moment.


This selection of Fowles’s poetic work includes two major sequences dating from the early part of his career in the 1950s and 60s, both of which (‘Apollo’ and ‘Mycenae’) draw on his time living in Greece and his interest in Greek mythology.

The other poems included, largely unpublished previously and roughly in chronological order, are very varied in content, form and technique, and culminate in a sequence written in hospital towards the end of his life. Together, these poems constitute a powerful body of work reflecting on love, nature, suffering and desire.

Fowles was always interested in verse translation and adaptation, and the book concludes with a fascinating sample of this side of his literary achievement. This section includes his translations of Martial, Catullus, Li Po and the eighth-century Man’yoshu, Japan’s oldest poetry compilation.

John Fowles (1926–2005) is widely regarded as one of the most innovative and important English novelists of the second half of the twentieth century, but his career as a writer began in the 1950s with poetry. After studying French at Oxford, he taught in France and Greece before returning to England. His first published novel, The Collector (1963), was a major critical as well as commercial success, and was followed in 1965 by The Magus, a highly original novel set in Greece. In 1968 he moved to Lyme Regis, a town that featured in his next novel, The French Lieutenant’s Woman (1969). Subsequent works of fiction are The Ebony Tower (1974), Daniel Martin (1977), Mantissa (1982) and A Maggot (1985). He also published a number of non-fiction books, but his only book of poetry, simply called Poems, came out in the USA (but not in the UK) in 1973.

About John Fowles

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John Fowles was born in Essex, England, in 1926. He attended the University of Edinburgh for a short time, left to serve in the Royal Marines, and then returned to school at Oxford University, where he received a B.A. in French in 1950. Fowles taught English in France and Greece, as well as at St. Godric's College in London. Although the main theme in all Fowles's fiction is freedom, there are few other similarities in his books. He has deliberately chosen to explore a different style or genre for each novel: The Collector, his first novel, is an intellectual thriller; The Magus is an adolescent learning novel, tracing the emotional development of the central character; Daniel Martin tries, in the modernist style, to depict psychological reality; Mantissa is a comedic allegory that takes place entirely inside the narrator's head; Maggot combines mystery, science fiction, and history; and The Ebony Tower is a collection of short stories. Fowles explored yet another genre, historical fiction, with his best-known novel, The French Lieutenant's Woman, which received the W. H. Smith Literary Award in 1970 and was made into a movie, starring Meryl Streep and Jeremy Irons, in 1981. An intriguing feature of this novel is that it has three different endings. Fowles's nonfiction includes Aristos: A Self Portrait in Ideas; Poems; and Wormholes: Essays and Other Occasional Writings. In addition, he has written the text for several books of photographs, including The Tree, for which Fowles received the Christopher Award in 1982. He died on November 5, 2005 at the age of 79.
Published July 3, 2012 by Flambard Press. 155 pages
Genres: Literature & Fiction. Non-fiction
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Reviewed by Maria Johnston on Sep 21 2012

...his words are rarely charged in ways that might enlarge and enliven the mind or the moment.

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