James Fenton

in Lincoln, The United Kingdom
April 25, 1949



James Fenton was born in Lincoln in 1949 and educated at Magdalen College, Oxford where he won the Newdigate Prize for poetry. He has worked as political journalist, drama critic, book reviewer, war correspondent, foreign correspondent and columnist. He is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature and was Oxford Professor of Poetry for the period 1994-99. In 2007, Fenton was awarded the Queen's Gold Medal for Poetry. ...more

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Average rating: 4.1 · 2,780 ratings · 338 reviews · 62 distinct worksSimilar authors
An Introduction to English ...

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Out of Danger

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The New Faber Book of Love ...

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All the Wrong Places: Adrif...

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Children in Exile: Poems 19...

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Selected Poems

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A Garden from a Hundred Pac...

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The Strength Of Poetry

3.80 avg rating — 41 ratings — published 2001 — 6 editions
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The Memory of War and Child...

3.60 avg rating — 20 ratings — published 1983 — 2 editions
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More books by James Fenton…
“The Mistake

With the mistake your life goes in reverse.
Now you can see exactly what you did
Wrong yesterday and wrong the day before
And each mistake leads back to something worse

And every nuance of your hypocrisy
Towards yourself, and every excuse
Stands solidly on the perspective lines
And there is perfect visibility.

What an enlightenment. The colonnade
Rolls past on either side. You needn't move.
The statues of your errors brush your sleeve.
You watch the tale turn back — and you're dismayed.

And this dismay at this, this big mistake
Is made worse by the sight of all those who
Knew all along where these mistakes would lead —
Those frozen friends who watched the crisis break.

Why didn't they say? Oh, but they did indeed —
Said with a murmur when the time was wrong
Or by a mild refusal to assent
Or told you plainly but you would not heed.

Yes, you can hear them now. It hurts. It's worse
Than any sneer from any enemy.
Take this dismay. Lay claim to this mistake.
Look straight along the lines of this reverse.”
James Fenton, Out of Danger

“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 exist.”
James Fenton

“God, A Poem
'I didn't exist at Creation,
I didn't exist at the Flood,
And I won't be around for Salvation
To sort out the sheep from the cud-

'Or whatever the phrase is. The fact is
In soteriological terms
I'm a crude existential malpractice
And you are a diet of worms”
James Fenton
tags: god, poetry

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