James Fenton


James Fenton
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James Martin Fenton (born 25 April 1949, Lincoln) is an English poet, journalist and literary critic. He is a former Oxford Professor of Poetry.

Born in Lincoln, Fenton grew up in Lincolnshire and Staffordshire, the son of Canon John Fenton, a noted biblical scholar. He was educated at the Durham Choristers School, Repton and Magdalen College, Oxford. He graduated with a B.A. in 1970.

Fenton acquired at school an enthusiasm for the work of W.H. Auden. At Oxford John Fuller, who happened to be writing A Reader's Guide to W.H. Auden at the time, further encouraged that enthusiasm. Auden became possibly the greatest single influence on Fenton's own work.

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  • ''The lullaby is the spell whereby the mother attempts to transform herself back from an ogre to a saint.''
    James Fenton (b. 1949), British poet, critic. "Ars Poetica," no. 7, Independent on Sunday (London, March 11, 1990).
  • ''The writing of a poem is like a child throwing stones into a mineshaft. You compose first, then you listen for the reverberation.''
    James Fenton (b. 1949), British poet, critic. Ars Poetica, no. 22, Independent on Sunday (London, June 24, 1990).
  • ''Imitation, if it is not forgery, is a fine thing. It stems from a generous impulse, and a realistic sense of what can and cannot be done.''
    James Fenton (b. 1949), British poet, critic. "Ars Poetica," no. 47, Independent on Sunday (London, Dec. 16, 1990).
  • It is not what they built. It is what they knocked down.
    It is not the houses. It is the spaces between the houses.
    It is not the streets that exist. It is the streets that no longer exi...
    James Fenton (b. 1949), British poet, critic. German Requiem (1981).
  • It has to be displayed, this face, on a more or less horizontal plane. Imagine a man wearing a mask, and imagine that the elastic which holds the mask on has just broken, so that the man (rather than ...
    James Fenton (b. 1949), British poet, critic. New Statesman (London, July 23, 1976). Referring to former Chancellor Nigel Lawson.
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