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Collected Poems


Dictator/Gilgamesh adapted by Philip Terry

Gilgamesh Retold by Jenny Lewis

Pearl translated by Jane Draycott

Edmund Blunden, Selected Poems edited by Robyn Marsack

Catullus, The Books of Catullus translated by Simon Smith

Rebecca Elson, A Responsibility to Awe: Collected Poems

John Heath-Stubbs, Selected Poems edited by John Clegg

Walter Pater, Selected Essays edited by Alex Wong

Propertius, Poems translated by Patrick Worsnip

Arthur Rimbaud, Illuminations translated by John Ashbery

George Seferis, Collected Poems translated by Edmund Keeley and Philip Sherrard

Charles Tomlinson, Swimming Chenango Lake: selected poems

edited by David Morley

William Carlos Williams, Collected Poems, volumes I and II

edited by Walton Litz and Christopher MacGowan


Collected Poems

Edited with an introduction by Jonathan Mann


John Anthony Burgess Wilson (1917–93) was an industrious writer. Through over fifty published books, thousands of essays, and countless other drafts and fragments, he articulated the struggles, freedoms and changes that he saw around him, and predicted many more to come. Perhaps his most famous example is A Clockwork Orange (1962), originally an indifferently-received novella which was later adapted into a controversial film by Stanley Kubrick, and provided Burgess with plentiful opportunities to explain his particular artistic vision. The linguistic innovations of that novel, the strict formal devices used to contain them, and its remarkable range of themes are all firmly present in Burgess’s poetry.

Now he no longer appears on our screens, it is easy to forget that Burgess was an irrepressible international literary figure whose work was disseminated through the mass media of the 1970s and 1980s. He was many things at once, some of them seemingly irreconcilable. There are in fact many Burgesses to choose from: novelist, composer, teacher, drinker, linguist, husband, rebel, journalist, diarist, extrovert, family man, cook, smoker, art critic, literary critic, television critic, television personality, collector of matchbooks, and – last but not least – poet. His flair for words, formal discipline, experimentalism, and fondness for variousness echoes equally through his music, his novels, his journalism and his literary criticism. These aesthetic competences are abundantly represented in this book.


Anthony Burgess

Edited with an introduction by Jonathan Mann

Per Liana e Antonio




Longer Poems, Sequences, and Narrative Works

An Essay on Censorship

Belli’s Blasphemous Bible


Poems Written for St Winefred’s Well

The Pet Beast

Signs (Dogs of Peace)

‘Augustine and Pelagius’

The Princely Progress

Five Revolutionary Sonnets

To Vladimir Nabokov On His 70th Birthday

The Sword

O Lord, O Ford, God Help Us, Also You

Personal Verse, Vignettes, and Other Short Work

Words for Music


Sources and Further Reading

Alphabetical List of Titles or First Lines


Anthony Burgess was a versatile and productive poet whose career began in 1935 when a few adolescent poems were published in Manchester Xaverian College’s magazine The Electron. Over the course of his career, Burgess wrote many hundreds of poems, lyrics, fragments, and occasional verses – everything from epic poetry to linguistically innovative experiments. Most of his novels include original poetry, frequently as a central plot device. This is especially evident in the Enderby novels, which feature poems written by Burgess but published under the fictional nom de plume F.X. Enderby. Notably, his words for music were heard on and off Broadway, and almost featured in a Warner Brothers film (Will!, 1968). The 1973 musical Cyrano (starring Christopher Plummer) was a commercial success thanks in no small part to Burgess’s verse. Burgess’s 1976 epic verse novel Moses was the literary product of an equally epic Italian television series. Likewise, the verses and songs from Burgess’s Man of Nazareth (1979) arose out of a collaboration with the award-winning film and television director Franco Zeffirelli. His poetry career ended with a remarkable novel in verse (Byrne, posthumously published 1995), whose form was borrowed from Byron.

In his autobiography You’ve Had Your Time, Burgess says he sent his poems to T. S. Eliot, who sent back a mildly approving letter of rejection. Whilst that letter remains unfound, another letter in a private collection shows that, in 1954, Burgess’s poetry was subject to the formal scrutiny of another literary critic. Gareth Lloyd-Evans, a noted Shakespearean scholar, judged Burgess’s poetry as a part of a competition held by his local newspaper. Burgess won the competition, and saw his work published on the front page of the Banbury Guardian on 27 May 1954. In his note to the winner, the judge praised Burgess’s imagery and linguistic innovation, but found his rhythm a little shaky. The short note is (so far) the only available review of Burgess’s earlier poetry by an informed contemporary critic, who found:

These are very accomplished poems indeed, and I suspect you are an old hand at the game. Have you published? If you haven’t, then you ought to, immediately. I find your imagery particularly exacting – e.g. in Sonnet 1. The image of the cock is brilliant. The ‘idea’ in Sonnet 1 is simple enough, but your language has given it a depth (almost a mystery) which is most satisfying. You might look over your rhythm again – it is occasionally jerky – noticeably so in Sonnet 2 where the transition from line 8 to 9 is rhythmically awkward. Congratulations on two first rate poems which easily take the prize.

The critical note is signed ‘G.L.E.’. The two sonnets in question were ‘A dream yes, but for everyone the same’ and ‘They lit the sun, and their day began’, part of the Revolutionary Sonnets sequence. Writing about this competition, Burgess notes that the newspaper regretted having to publish his poems. ‘What the readers of the Banbury Guardian made of this sonnet’, he says, ‘was never recorded’.1

Another analysis of a Burgess poem came from the poet himself in the 1970s. Perhaps as a literary joke, Burgess reviewed a poem by F.X. Enderby in They Wrote in English, an anthology of major Western writers.2 That poem is ‘Garrison Town, Evening’ (see p. 00). As the only available example of Burgess explicating his own poetry at length, it is worth reproducing here:

The opening line is a reminiscence of the opening line of a song by Henry Purcell

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