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James Kirkup, who has died aged 91, was an extraordinarily prolific writer in many genres. Though perhaps best known as a poet, he was also an accomplished translator of verse, prose and drama, a fine travel writer, a dramatist and an autobiographer of distinction. His varied achievements as a writer have unfortunately been overshadowed, in Britain at least, by an episode in which the publication in 1976 of one his poems in Gay News led to the last successful prosecution for blasphemy.
Kirkup was born in South Shields, County Durham, the only son of a carpenter. Educated at South Shields high school, he later took a degree in modern languages at Durham University. During the second world war, he was a conscientious objector and worked as an agricultural labourer. Openly homosexual and sometimes deliberately provocative in his behaviour, he found social encounters difficult. He described himself as having an "inborn sense of deep solitude and apartness".
After the war he worked - unsuccessfully - as a schoolteacher. His poetry was published from the early 1940s onwards, many of these early poems being overwritten and given to opulent language. He was Gregory fellow in poetry at Leeds University from 1950 to 1952 and his first substantial collection, The Submerged Village and Other Poems, was published by Oxford University Press in 1951. At a time when OUP was one of the most prestigious publishers of contemporary poetry in the English-speaking world, five further volumes by Kirkup appeared from the press in 1952, 1954, 1957, 1959 and 1963.
His work in this period stripped away the previous extravagance and was characterised by a new precision of language. The title poem of A Correct Compassion (1952) - an account of a heart operation - has been widely anthologised and much admired for the exactness of its observation and its language. But the poem is far more than reportage (however accomplished); as a meditation on art, on its "correct compassion", it is sophisticated and deft. As a kind of "defence of poetry", it is persuasive and moving. There is much else to admire and enjoy in Kirkup's 1950s poetry, a body of work now seriously underrated.
During these years he held posts at Bath Academy of Art, in Stockholm, and at the University of Salamanca in Spain, before becoming professor of English at Tohoku University, Sendai, Japan in 1959. After that he taught at various universities in Japan, and also spent periods as a visiting fellow at universities in Britain and the US. From 1977 until his retirement in 1988, he was professor of English literature at the Kyoto University of Foreign Studies. He then moved to Andorra. Throughout all these years, his creative output was prodigious. He was not perhaps endowed with the most perfect of self-critical faculties and published rather too much work that was below his best. But it is remarkable how much of his output was of a high order.
Kirkup's later poetry became richly varied in both form and subject, characterised by an impressive openness to new possibilities. His years in Japan were reflected in his successful adoption of the haiku and (most notably) the tanka. So, for example, Tanka Tales (1997) employs the traditional poetic form of 31 syllables disposed in five lines (5,7,5,7,7) to discuss subjects ranging from the Brothers Grimm to the pottery of Bernard Leach.
He wrote extensively on Japanese subjects, strikingly so in Pikadon (1997), an epic on the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, which combines detailed focus on individuals with larger historical analysis, its lyrical passages often very moving, its anger intelligent and exact. But he was just as likely to write lyrics on jazz or football, on Olympic athletes or mythology, on the sea or science fiction, on sex or Paganini.
Kirkup was a translator of the first importance, one of the most distinguished English translators of Japanese poetry. A Certain State of Mind (1995) gathers many of his translations of haiku (and adds some poems of his own) and A Book of Tanka (1996) does the same for that form. His Modern Japanese Poetry (1978, enlarged edition as Burning Giraffes, 1996) is a standard work, and he published other very significant translations of both classical and contemporary Japanese poetry. We of Zipangu (2006), for example, is a fascinating collection of versions from Mutsuo Takahashi, made in collaboration with Tamaki Makoto.
He also produced accomplished versions of French poets, such as his 1970 version, The Eternal Virgin, of Valéry's La Jeune Parque. He translated prose by authors such as Camara Laye, Jerzy Andrzejewski, Theodor Storm and Simone de Beauvoir, as well as plays by, among others, Heinrich von Kleist, Schiller, Dürrenmatt and Ibsen (this last in the definitive Oxford Ibsen).
He published well-received travel books, such as These Horned Islands: a Journal of Japan (1962) and Filipinescas: Travels through the Philippine Islands (1968). His volumes of autobiography (notably The Only Child, 1957, Sorrows, Passions and Alarms, 1959, and A Poet Could Not But Be Gay, 1991) were widely praised. The reader is advised, however, not to underestimate the amount of embellishment and invention that such volumes contain.
Kirkup was an extraordinarily prolific man of letters and continued to be so after his retirement to Andorra. From his home in the village of Les Bons, he produced poem after poem - and a series of obituaries for the Independent (to one collection of poems, published in 1996, he gave the title The Patient Obituarist). Perhaps because he spent so long abroad, in Britain his work did not attract as much praise and attention as it might have. It is unfortunate, too, that many should know of Kirkup only in terms of one episode and one poem - a poem which is of far less aesthetic merit than much in his extensive output.
In June 1976, Gay News published his poem The Love that Dares to Speak Its Name, in which a Roman centurion expresses the sexual fantasies the body of Christ provokes in him and imagines a history of Christ's homosexual encounters. Mary Whitehouse sued the newspaper for blasphemous libel. Gay News was defended by John Mortimer and both Bernard Levin and Margaret Drabble gave evidence on its behalf, but the jury decided in favour of Whitehouse. The newspaper and its editor, Denis Lemon (of whom Kirkup was later to write an obituary), were fined, and Lemon was given a nine-month suspended sentence.
It is unfortunate that this episode has acquired such a prominent place in the public perception of Kirkup, distracting attention from his considerable achievements as a writer. He was well described by Stevie Smith as "a poet in the English tradition, original without being freakish, contemporary without being fraudulent". The critic Philip Hobsbaum called him "one of the genuine masters of verse in the middle to later 20th century". Glyn Pursglove
Alan Brownjohn writes: James Kirkup's poems were a vivid presence in the reading of any aspiring writer in the late 1940s. Gently romantic - Kirkup declined the wilder style of the "apocalyptic" group that saw Dylan Thomas and George Barker as mentors - they appealed because they were neatly constructed, accessible and usually derived from recognisable modern experience.
One particular place to spot them, with work from WH Auden, Roy Campbell, Roy Fuller and others, was in the Listener, which rivalled the political weeklies in the range and quality of its material. Its literary editor, JR Ackerley, who made a point of accepting or (much more often) rejecting batches of verse by return post, quickly became an influential supporter of this prolific young poet from South Shields.
Poetry readings were rarer then than now, but Kirkup, a clear and persuasive performer of his own work, gave to Oxford students in 1952 a memorable premiere of A Correct Compassion, declaring that poets should write about literally anything. He relished the prospect of writing from the moon or outer space. He also contributed a Poem Written in Invisible Ink to the university magazine departure.
One London venue where he appeared several times was the dimly lit hall of the (strictly humanist and agnostic) Ethical Church, in Bayswater. There, this pacifist and gay poet was one among many notable guests of the Progressive League, founded by HG Wells and others to counter fascism in the 1930s and continuing as a promoter of rigorously structured Contemporary Poetry and Music evenings. Kirkup, like all the musicians and poets (later including Allen Ginsberg and Gregory Corso) were content to perform unpaid from the collection taken in a bowl to cover expenses. It was a different world.
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- Books By James Kirkup
- A Children's Book of Verse
I, of All People: An Autobiography of Youth
The Magic Drum
Insect summer: An introduction to haiku poetry
- One man's Russia
- David L. Ulin
- Andrew Keller
- Anne Finger
- Stephanie Russell
- Nathaniel Rich
- George S. Kaufman
- Andrew McNeillie
- Paul E. Sigmund
- Barbara Stuber
- James Franklin Harris
- Lisa Lindblad
- Daphne A. Brooks
- Daniel Heller-Roazen
- John Robert McFarland
- Samantha Hahn
- Guus Houtzager
- Rudolph E. Willis
- Njabulo S. Ndebele
- Arthur Komar
Books by James Kirkup
A Children's Book of Verse
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One man's Russia
Gaijin on the Ginza
Modern Japanese Poetry
A Poet Could Not but Be Gay: Some Legends of My Lost Youth
Book of Tanka: An Anthology of Tanka from the Earliest Times to the Present Day : Selected Translations and Original Poems in English (Salzburg Studies ... Poetic Drama & Poetic Theory, 182)
Songs and dreams: An anthology of poetry from East and West;
White Shadows, Black Shadows: Poems of Peace and War
Japan Behind the Fan
The prodigal son: poems 1956 -1959
Japan ohne Fächer. Leben unter der aufgehenden Sonne
Shepherding winds: An anthology of poetry from East and West
Cities of the World: Bangkok
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James Kirkup papers
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- Collection Overview
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Scope and Contents
The James Kirkup Papers includes correspondence, writings, photographs, audiovisual material, personal documents and memorabilia that document the life and work of British author James Kirkup. The papers span his writing career, from early school papers to digital books published in the 2000s, and include documentation of the diverse genres of Kirkup's research and writing: autobiography, poetry, travel writing, obituaries, novels, dramatic works, and translations. The papers document not only Kirkup's life and work, but also pacifism as a theme in literature, twentieth-century gay life, émigré life in Japan, twentieth-century literature and poetry (especially haiku), and Kirkup's family history. Prominent correspondents include Akiko Takemoto and Muriel Metcalfe.
- 1890 - 2007
- Majority of material found within 1940 - 2007
- Kirkup, James, 1918-2009
Language of Materials
Chiefly in English and Japanese. Some material in French.
Conditions Governing Access
The materials are open for research. Boxes 177-178 (audiovisual material): Restricted fragile material. Reference copies may be requested. Consult Access Services for further information.
Conditions Governing Use
The James Kirkup Papers is the physical property of the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale University. Literary rights, including copyright, belong to the authors or their legal heirs and assigns. For further information, consult the appropriate curator.
Immediate Source of Acquisition
Purchased from James Kirkup and from Hawthorn Books on the Edwin J. Beinecke Book Fund, 1994-2009. Printouts of virtual books: gift of Brindin Press, 2003.
Organized into seven series: I. Correspondence, 1937-2007. II. Writings, 1938-2007. III. Personal Papers and Memorabilia, circa 1920-1997. IV. Audiovisual Material, 1993-2002. V. Visual Material, circa 1890-2000s. VI. Printed Material, 1930s-2000s. VII. Manuscript Material Removed from Books, 1960s-2000s.
Other material by or relating to James Kirkup, including letters to Akiko Takemoto, can be found by searching Orbis (Yale's Online Catalog) . Related material can be found in the James Kirkup Collection in South Shields, cataloged at http://www.thejameskirkupcollection.co.uk/collection.html.
79.11 Linear Feet ((199 boxes) + 2 rolls and 4 broadside folders)
A record for this collection is available in Orbis, the Yale University Library catalog
The James Kirkup Papers includes correspondence, writings, photographs, audiovisual material, personal documents and memorabilia that document the life and work of British author James Kirkup.The papers span his writing career, from early school papers to printouts of digital books published in the 2000s, and include documentation of the diverse genres of Kirkup's research and writing. The papers document not only Kirkup's life and work, but also pacifism as a theme in literature, twentieth-century gay life, e?migre? life in Japan, 20th century literature and poetry (especially haiku), and Kirkup's family history. Prominent correspondents include Akiko Takemoto and Muriel Metcalfe.
James Kirkup, 1918-2009
James Kirkup, prolific author and translator, produced hundreds of works of poetry, autobiography, drama, travel memoir, translation and obituary. Kirkup occasionally used pen names, including James Falconer, Jun Honda, Andrew James, Taeko Kawai, Felix Liston, Edward Raeburn, and Ivy B. Summerforest.Kirkup was born April 23, 1918 in South Shields, England, lived much of his life in Japan, and died May 10, 2009 in Andorra.
This collection includes materials previously identified by the following call numbers: Uncat MS Vault 714, Uncat MS Vault 748, Uncat MS Vault 821, Uncat MSS 519, Uncat MSS 556, Uncat MSS 872, Uncat MSS 948, and Uncat MSS 1220. Collection are processed to a variety of levels, depending on the work necessary to make them usable, their perceived research value, the availability of staff, competing priorities, and whether or not further accruals are expected. The library attempts to provide a basic level of preservation and access for all collections, and does more extensive processing of higher priority collections as time and resources permit. This collection received a basic level of processing in 2010-2011, including rehousing and minimal organization. Various acquisitions associated with the collection have been merged and organized as a whole. As a rule, descriptive information found in the Collection Contents section is drawn in large part from information supplied with the collection and from an initial survey of the contents. Folder titles appearing in the contents list below are often based on those provided by the creator or previous custodian. Titles have not been verified against the contents of the folders in all cases. Otherwise, folder titles are supplied by staff. This finding aid may be updated periodically to account for new acquisitions to the collection and/or revisions in arrangement and description. Box 200 and folders 1994-1995 are unused. Original audiotape reels are now housed in box 177. Restricted fragile material.
- Audiovisual materials
- Authors, English -- 20th Century -- Archives
- Emigration and immigration -- Japan
- English drama -- 20th Century
- English poetry
- Gay authors
- Haiku -- Translations into English
- Homosexuality and literature
- LGBTQ resource
- Metcalfe, Muriel
- Pacifism -- Great Britain
- Sound recordings
- Takemoto, Akiko, 1937-
- Translating and interpreting
- Travelers' writings, British
- Video recordings
Finding Aid & Administrative Information
Part of the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library Repository
121 Wall Street New Haven, CT 06511
The Beinecke Library is open to all Yale University students and faculty, and visiting researchers whose work requires use of its special collections. You will need to bring appropriate photo ID the first time you register. Beinecke is a non-circulating, closed stack library. Paging is done by library staff during business hours. You can request collection material online at least two business days in advance of your visit, using the request links in Archives at Yale. For more information, please see Planning Your Research Visit and consult the Reading Room Policies prior to visiting the library.
Navigate the collection
James Kirkup Papers. General Collection, Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale University.
Cite Item Description
James Kirkup Papers. General Collection, Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale University. https://archives.yale.edu/repositories/11/resources/833 Accessed September 01, 2023.
James Kirkup (Kirkup, James)
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Play Strindberg The Dance of death choreographed
Friedrich Durrenmatt, James Kirkup
Published by Grove Press, 1973
ISBN 10: 0394177983 ISBN 13: 9780394177984
Seller: BookHolders , Towson, MD, U.S.A.
Used - Softcover Condition: Good
Condition: Good. [ No Hassle 30 Day Returns ][ Ships Daily ] [ Underlining/Highlighting: NONE ] [ Writing: NONE ] [ Edition: Reprint ] Publisher: Grove Press Pub Date: 1/1/1973 Binding: Paperback Pages: 76 Reprint edition.
Patrick Drevet; Translator-James Kirkup
Published by Quartet Books, 1993
ISBN 10: 0704370379 ISBN 13: 9780704370371
Seller: Ergodebooks , Houston, TX, U.S.A.
Used - Hardcover Condition: Good
Hardcover. Condition: Good.
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Friedrich Durrenmatt; Translator-James Kirkup
Published by Grove Press, 1994
ISBN 10: 0802150888 ISBN 13: 9780802150882
Paperback. Condition: Good.
The Dark Child: The Autobiography of an African Boy
Laye, Camara; Kirkup, James [Translator]; Jones, Ernest [Translator]; Thoby-Marcellin, Philippe [Introduction];
Published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1954
ISBN 10: 080901548X ISBN 13: 9780809015481
Seller: Allied Book Company Inc. , Ligonier, IN, U.S.A.
Used - Softcover Condition: Very Good
Paperback. Condition: Very Good. Pages are clean. Book Leaves in 1 Business Day or Less! Leaves Same Day if Received by 2 pm EST! Cover has shelf wear. Very Good. Multiple copies available. MI.
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Poet Could Not But Be Gay: Some Legends of my Lost Youth
Published by Peter Owen Ltd, 1991
ISBN 10: 0720608236 ISBN 13: 9780720608236
Seller: WorldofBooks , Goring-By-Sea, WS, United Kingdom
Used - Hardcover Condition: Very Good
From United Kingdom to U.S.A.
Hardback. Condition: Very Good. The book has been read, but is in excellent condition. Pages are intact and not marred by notes or highlighting. The spine remains undamaged.
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One man's Russia
Published by Phoenix House, 1968
ISBN 10: 046007735X ISBN 13: 9780460077354
Seller: WeBuyBooks , Rossendale, LANCS, United Kingdom
Condition: Good. Most items will be dispatched the same or the next working day. Minor shelf wear. Previous owners name inside the front page/cover.
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An African in Greenland (New York Review Books Classics)
Kpomassie, Tete-Michel; Kirkup, James; Alvarez, A.
Published by NYRB Classics, 2001
ISBN 10: 0940322889 ISBN 13: 9780940322882
Seller: Goodwill Books , Hillsboro, OR, U.S.A.
Condition: Good. Signs of wear and consistent use.
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The Physicists: A Play
Friedrich Durrenmatt; James Kirkup [Translator]
Published by Grove Press, Inc., 1964
ISBN 10: 0394172469 ISBN 13: 9780394172460
Seller: Polly's Books , Grand Rapids, MI, U.S.A.
Paperback. Condition: Good. 3rd Printing. 16th Printing, 1978. Same Cover Art. A good softcover copy with a tight and square binding. Text is clean but has tanned. Softcovers are good. Careful packaging and fast shipping. We recommend EXPEDITED MAIL for even faster delivery. Shipped in 100% recyclable material.
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Songs and Dreams
Published by Blackie Academic and Professional, 1970
ISBN 10: 0216883717 ISBN 13: 9780216883710
Seller: Reuseabook , Gloucester, GLOS, United Kingdom
Used - Hardcover Condition: Used; Good
Hardcover. Condition: Used; Good. Dispatched, from the UK, within 48 hours of ordering. This book is in good condition but will show signs of previous ownership. Please expect some creasing to the spine and/or minor damage to the cover. Aged book. Tanned pages and age spots, however, this will not interfere with reading. Ripped/damaged jacket. The dust jacket of this book is slightly damaged/ripped, however, this does not affect the internal condition. Inscription on the first page, typically just a name but may include a dedication or a brief personal message.
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The Radiance of the King
Laye, Camara; Kirkup, James;Morrison, Toni
Published by Random House Inc, 2011
ISBN 10: 1590174550 ISBN 13: 9781590174555
Seller: Magers and Quinn Booksellers , Minneapolis, MN, U.S.A.
Used - Softcover Condition: Like New
Condition: Like New. May have light shelf wear and/or a remainder mark. Complete. Clean pages. paperback.
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I, Of All People
Published by St. Martins, 1988
ISBN 10: 0312023421 ISBN 13: 9780312023423
Seller: Library House Internet Sales , Grand Rapids, OH, U.S.A.
Hardcover. Condition: Good. Dust Jacket Condition: Good. Former library book. Mylar protector included. Please note the image in this listing is a stock photo and may not match the covers of the actual item. Ex-Library.
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Physicists: A Play in Two Acts
Durrenmatt, Friedrich; Kirkup, James
Published by Samuel French, New York, 1963
ISBN 10: 0573013403 ISBN 13: 9780573013409
Seller: Book Booth , Berea, OH, U.S.A.
Paperback. Condition: Good. Prior owner's name inked-out inside front cover, else minor wear to covers; pages clean; binding tight. 59 pages. Translated into English by James Kirkup. Size: 5 1/2" x 8 1/2".
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Look At It This Way: Poems for Young People
Published by Rockingham Press
ISBN 10: 1873468164 ISBN 13: 9781873468166
Paperback. Condition: Very Good. The book has been read, but is in excellent condition. Pages are intact and not marred by notes or highlighting. The spine remains undamaged.
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I, of All People
Published by Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1988
ISBN 10: 0297793136 ISBN 13: 9780297793137
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Memoirs of a Dutiful Daughter (Modern Classics)
James Kirkup, Simone de Beauvoir
Published by Penguin Classics 30/01/1986, 1986
ISBN 10: 0140087559 ISBN 13: 9780140087550
Seller: AwesomeBooks , Wallingford, United Kingdom
Condition: Very Good. This book is in very good condition and will be shipped within 24 hours of ordering. The cover may have some limited signs of wear but the pages are clean, intact and the spine remains undamaged. This book has clearly been well maintained and looked after thus far. Money back guarantee if you are not satisfied. See all our books here, order more than 1 book and get discounted shipping. .
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Throwback, Poems towards an Autobiography
Published by Rockingham Press, 2004
ISBN 10: 1873468032 ISBN 13: 9781873468036
Seller: PBShop.store US , Wood Dale, IL, U.S.A.
New - Softcover Condition: New
PAP. Condition: New. New Book. Shipped from UK. Established seller since 2000.
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America's Gulag : Full Spectrum Dominance Versus Universal Human Rights
Vonnegut, Kurt; Kirkup, James; Khan, Irene; Warde, Ibrahim; Kent, Bruce
Published by Gardners Books, 1656
ISBN 10: 0851246915 ISBN 13: 9780851246918
Seller: GreatBookPrices , Columbia, MD, U.S.A.
Used - Softcover Condition: As New
Condition: As New. Unread book in perfect condition.
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Published by Red Squirrel Press
ISBN 10: 1906700192 ISBN 13: 9781906700195
Used Condition: As New
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Friedrich Durrenmatt's The Meteor
Published by The Dramatic Publishing Co., 1966
Seller: The Yard Sale Store , Narrowsburg, NY, U.S.A.
Used - Softcover Condition: Acceptable
Paperback. Condition: Acceptable. THE SCRIPT! Not so pretty. ACTING EDITION SCRIPT will serve as a useful Starving Student Edition when you need an extra! Some shelf wear and edge wear to the covers. Economically priced ACTING EDITION for your performance needs. This Acceptable THEATER SCRIPT has LIGHT PAGE TANNING. MARKER & PENCIL MARKS. Book.
A DREAM OF AFRICA
Laye, Camara; Kirkup, James (translator)
Published by Collier, 1971
Seller: Karen Wickliff - Books , Columbus, OH, U.S.A.
Mass Market Paperback. Condition: Very Good. 190pp. mmpb, VG, corner tips slightly bumped, "After six years Fatoman returns home to his native Guinea and observes with horror the erosion of his native land",
No More Hiroshimas
Published by Coronet Books Inc., 2004
ISBN 10: 0851246893 ISBN 13: 9780851246895
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Published by Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 1990
ISBN 10: 0297795694 ISBN 13: 9780297795698
Seller: austin books and more , New York, NY, U.S.A.
Paperback. Condition: Very Good. [NB_39 AUG19T5 AL1] has only light edge wear, no marks on pages. tight and clean copy. no serious defects.
Used offers from US$ 7.40
Published by A. S. Barnes and Co., Inc., 1966
Seller: Redux Books , Grand Rapids, MI, U.S.A.
Hardcover. Condition: Good. Hardcover with dust jacket. Pages are clean and unmarked. Covers show minor shelving wear. Binding is tight, hinges strong. Dust jacket shows edge wear.; 100% Satisfaction Guaranteed! Ships same or next business day!.
Shepherding Winds: An Anthology of Poetry from East and West
Published by Blackie Academic and Professional, 1969
ISBN 10: 0216883725 ISBN 13: 9780216883727
Seller: ThriftBooks-Dallas , Dallas, TX, U.S.A.
Hardcover. Condition: Very Good. No Jacket. May have limited writing in cover pages. Pages are unmarked. ~ ThriftBooks: Read More, Spend Less.
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UPON THIS ROCK
Published by OXFORD UNIVERSITY PRESS, 1955
Seller: reads , WAREHAM, United Kingdom
Soft cover. Condition: Very Good. 1st Edition. Softcovers. First published by Oxford University Press in 1955. UPON THIS ROCK. A DRAMATIC CHRONICLE OF PETERBOROUGH CATHEDRAL BY JAMES KIKUP. WITH A FOREWORD BY THE BISHOP OF PETERBOROUGH. xii. 84pp. Illus cover. the contents are in very good condition.
Camara Laye, Toni Morrison, James Kirkup
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Memoirs of a Dutiful Daughter
de Beauvoir, Simone, and Kirkup, James (Translated by)
Published by Harper Perennial, New York, NY, 1974
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The only child (The Pergamon English library)
Published by Pergamon Press, 1966
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Queens Have Died Young and Fair
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James Kirkup: Poet, author and translator who also wrote approximately 300 obituaries for The Independent
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James Kirkup, who died on Sunday 10 May, aged 91, at his Andorran home, was an internationally celebrated poet, memoirist, novelist, playwright and translator. James Falconer Kirkup was born on 23 April 1918 in South Shields, County Durham. He attended Westoe Secondary School before studying Modern Languages at Armstrong College (later incorporated in the University of Durham), where he co-produced the poetry magazines Dint and Fulcrum, which featured his earliest verse.
During the Second World War, Kirkup secured conscientious objector status, working as a farm labourer and for the Forestry Commission. The first volume of his expressive poetry was The Cosmic Shape (1946), co-authored with Ross Nichols. Based for some time in London, Kirkup became known for his wit, flamboyance, outspokenness, sociability and bibulousness. He befriended literary types such as Jon Silkin, John Heath Stubbs , David Wright , Roy Campbell, Muriel Spark and Stephen Spender.
Kirkup was teaching modern languages at The Downs School in Gloucestershire, when his first solo collection, The Drowned Sailor (1947), appeared. At Minchenden Grammar School, he was dismissed for failing to keep discipline. Meanwhile, he struck up a friendship with the editor of The Listener, J. R. Ackerley, who began commissioning book reviews from him, as well as publishing examples of Kirkup's increasingly risqué verse. One poem, "The Convenience", addressed mens' recreational pursuits in a urinal. Ackerley forced through its publication despite his typists' refusal to co-operate.
In 1950, Kirkup's growing reputation precipitated his appointment as the first Gregory Poetry Fellow at Leeds University. He later interpreted his responsibilities thus: "to be myself and do as I pleased with absolute artistic and bohemian freedom." He rented a flat in the red light district, to which he invited favoured verse-writing undergraduates including Robin Skelton, whose talents he encouraged. Kirkup's 1952 collection, A Correct Compassion, received very favourable reviews. A number of its poems related to Leeds, including the title-poem – much reproduced and anthologised – which recounted Kirkup's attendance at a heart operation in Leeds General Infirmary.
Kirkup became Head of the Department of English at Bath Academy of Art in 1953, but in 1956 he left England for good, convinced that "The Movement", and associated changes in literary tastes, would prevent his achieving greater renown. He lectured in Sweden and Spain before taking up a succession of teaching appointments in Japan, culminating in a 12-year tenure as Professor of English Literature at the Kyoto University of Foreign Studies (1977-1989).
His engagement with Japanese culture was characteristically quixotic. Kirkup refused to familiarise himself with the language. However, he developed an admiration for both the haiku and tanka forms of Japanese poetry, co-opting these for his own versifying in English. In 1965 Kirkup won the Japan PEN Club Prize for Poetry. He established a magazine, Poetry Nippon, in 1966; and in 1969 was appointed President of the Poet's Society of Japan. The apogee of his Eastern achievements was an invitation in 1997 by the Japanese emperor to participate in the Imperial New Year Poetry Reading.
In 1964, Kirkup was made Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature, and between 1974 and 1977, he was often in England. He secured an Arts Council Creative Writing Fellowship at Sheffield University, and then became playwright-in-residence at the Sherman Theatre, University College, Cardiff. But Kirkup's verse was about to bring him recognition on the scale he had longed for, if not in the manner he had wished.
Kirkup had placed a long poem, "The Love that Dares to Speak its Name", in the June 1976 issue of Gay News. Its account of a Roman centurion fantasising about having sex with the body of Christ brought it to the attention of the campaigner for public morals, Mrs Mary Whitehouse. She instigated legal proceedings against the newspaper and its editor, Denis Lemon, for the "recrucifixion of Christ by 20th-century weapons."
The Crown duly undertook to prosecute for blasphemy. The trial opened in July 1977 at the Old Bailey. Kirkup was "mortified" by the scandal over what he had already decided was "not aesthetically a successful work." Being abroad during the trial, he decided to keep away. John Mortimer, barrister and author, led for the defence. Bernard Levin and Margaret Drabble agreed to defend the poem on literary grounds, though this would be ruled inadmissable. (Angus Wilson, a longstanding friend of Kirkup's, declined to do so, for fear of jeopardising several offers of lucrative teaching at American universities).
Lemon and Gay News were found guilty in the last successful British prosecution for blasphemy. Lemon was given a suspended jail sentence that was overturned on appeal. The judge, Alan King-Hamilton, rejoiced in predicting that the "pendulum of public opinion was beginning to swing back to a more healthy climate", making clear his own view of the "appalling" poem. Kirkup remained embarrassed by the whole affair, and in 2002 a commemoration of the trial which involved the banned poem's recitation in London drew Kirkup's disapproval; he felt he was "being used." Soon afterwards, Kirkup moved to Andorra, where he wrote and published more prolifically than ever.
His oeuvre includes around 40 verse collections, six books of autobiography (chiefly concerning his childhood), and many translations from the French, starting with Camare Laye's novel The Dark Child (1955) and Simone de Beauvoir's Memoirs of a Dutiful Daughter (1958). He occasionally took on German works too, such as Friedrich Durrenmatt's play Physicists (1963). A run of impressively-rendered French novels in the 1990s began with Patrick Drevet's A Room in the Woods and Jean-Baptiste Piel's Painted Shadows (both 1991); the latter won Kirkup the Scott Moncrieff Prize for Translation. Jean-Noel Pancrazi's Vagabond Winter (1992) followed, and then four books by Hervé Guibert: The Compassion Protocol (1993), The Man in the Red Hat (1993), Blindsight and Paradise (both 1996).
The author Francis King recalls Kirkup as "a narcissist and exhibitionist; he was as witty as Quentin Crisp and had the same admirably courageous effrontery". Paul Bailey remembers a rococo figure, startlingly individualistic, desporting himself among the burghers of Newcastle in late middle-age, clad in a kimono. Kirkup could regale listeners with baroque accounts of his sexual adventures. There was, however, a more sombre, even sadder, side to him. One can feel this when he notes how Pancrazi's novel had displayed "the eternal problem, for gays, of establishing a fairly durable human relationship with another", and celebrated its portrayal of "a totally neglected segment of the homosexual population – those who are no longer young and beautiful." Still, Kirkup celebrated his own former youth and beauty – much acknowledged in its day – in the tongue-in-cheek self-regard which characterise his underrated autobiographies such as I, Of All People (1988), A Poet Could Not But Be Gay (1991) and Me All Over (1993).
James Kirkup was a loyal and expert contributor to The Independent, writes James Fergusson , still writing for the paper when he was almost 90. He was a one-man world literature necrology department, supplying obituaries of writers from every country in which he had ever worked – and a few others. No dry academic (despite all his overseas professorships), he was an enthusiast, an evangelist for the untranslated, and an active translator himself. His enthusiasms were wide and extended well beyond writers – notably to actors, actresses and, his glorious staple, chansonniers.
Over nearly two decades Kirkup wrote some 300 obituaries, hardly any of them written in advance of death, and most neatly typed on two sheets of close-set A4 and faxed from his eyrie in Andorra. Fax was his only concession to modern technology. Occasionally there were crises over typewriter ribbons. Once, with difficulty, he sourced a brand-new typewriter.
The first obituary he contributed was not, as he told the story, for the French novelist Hervé Guibert (who died of Aids), but for the "grand old man of Japanese letters" Yasushi Inoue. That was in 1991 – the year the first Independent Foreign Fiction Award was presented. The Independent prided itself on its international coverage and its obituaries pages were deliberately, sometimes provocatively, unparochial. Some readers were as infuriated by James Kirkup's poets with unpronounceable names as others were by Steve Voce's of drunken American jazz saxophonists.
Kirkup's subjects were most often French, or Japanese, but a dip in his files shows provenances from Germany, Italy, Portugal, Spain and Sweden to Algeria, Morocco, Argentina, Chile, Mexico and Cuba. The British, he said, "are neither my province nor my cup of tea". There seemed to be no writer he hadn't read, or at least looked at; and for many of his characters there was a telling anecdote – he had sat in their audience, sent them a letter, seen them in a bar in Paris, met them at a party in Tokyo. The range of occupations he covered was virtuoso – not just poet, novelist, playwright and publisher, actor, singer and film director, but also circus artist, sculptor, architect, philosopher, mathematician, historian, kimono designer, shoemaker, shakuhachi player, sumo wrestler and businessman (I note Den Fujita of the "vivacious patter", founder of McDonald's Japan).
Many of these subjects were the delicious small fry that are the best thing about an obituaries page, but he also addressed himself to Ingmar Bergman, Marcel Marceau, Elias Canetti, Jean Marais, Julien Green, Julien Gracq, Stanley Kubrick and Shusaku Endo. His elegant account of Jean-Dominique Bauby was reprinted in a recent edition of The Diving-Bell and the Butterfly. One person he refused to write about was Mary Whitehouse. When I asked him in 2001 whether he would like to add anything to our obituary coverage, he sighed. He was heartily sick of the celebrity the Gay News blasphemy trial had given him, and of the poem that caused it.
Kirkup admitted to a fascination with the obituary genre. Writing in 2002 in the magazine The Author (his article was headed "The Grateful Dead"), he spun a telephone romance. It was the "laughter" in the voice of Emma Hagestadt, then an assistant on the obituaries desk, that had recruited him to The Independent. When he was in London, Emma had left flowers at his hotel. He gathered himself a new library to satisfy her future demands, and now he could scarcely move about his apartment. His favourite subjects, he said, were "always people of a rather eccentric and dubiously entertaining character": these allowed him to introduce "a certain light-hearted tenderness" into the obituary pages. When future students come to write theses on "Light-Hearted Tenderness in the Obituaries of James Kirkup" they will find boxes and boxes of his original typescripts in the Beinecke Library at Yale.
The discipline of obituaries suited him, I think. They took him outside himself. In his autobiographies, or in the portraits drawn of him by his mentor J.R. Ackerley in the 1940s and 1950s, he can appear fey, extravagant, self-centred. Necrology demanded self-denial. In old age James Kirkup was less fey than shy on the telephone, spoken English coming to him almost as a foreign language. Yet he remained playful. Two years ago he sent me his "poems for Andorra", An Island in the Sky, mostly exercises in tanka. One of the poems is entitled "Obituary". It is a tribute to the "grand old man of the Pyrenees" – Papillon. Papillon was not a man at all, but a brown bear. He had been found dead, aged 30.
James Falkender Kirkup, writer, translator and poet; born South Shields, Co Durham 23 April 1918; died Andorra 10 May 2009.
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Author : Thomas Kirkup
This author wrote articles for the 1911 Encyclopædia Britannica Articles written by this author are designated in the EB1911 by the initials " T. K. "
Works [ edit ]
- A history of socialism (1892) ( transcription project )
- Progress and the fiscal problem (1905) ( external scan )
- A primer of socialism (1910) ( external scan )
Contributions to EB9 [ edit ]
- " Socialism ," in Encyclopædia Britannica, Ninth Edition (1875–1889)
Contributions to EB1911 [ edit ]
- " Essenes ," in Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed., 1911) ( in part )
- " Hadrian ," in Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed., 1911) ( in part )
- " Julian ," in Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed., 1911) ( in part )
- " Lassalle, Ferdinand ," in Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed., 1911)
- " Saint-Simon, Claude Henri de Rouvroy, Comte de ," in Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed., 1911) (with James Thomson Shotwell )
Some or all works by this author were published before January 1, 1928, and are in the public domain worldwide because the author died at least 100 years ago. Translations or editions published later may be copyrighted. Posthumous works may be copyrighted based on how long they have been published in certain countries and areas.
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Kirkus Prize names Jesmyn Ward, Héctor Tobar among finalists for top literary award
2023 Kirkus Prize finalist Jesmyn Ward, pictured at the 2017 National Book Awards in New York City. Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images hide caption
2023 Kirkus Prize finalist Jesmyn Ward, pictured at the 2017 National Book Awards in New York City.
A leading literary trade publication, Kirkus Reviews, has announced 18 finalists for the 2023 Kirkus Prize in the categories of Fiction, Nonfiction, and Young Readers' Literature.
The award, while not as well-known as the Pulitzers or the National Book Award, is one of the most renumerative in the world of literature. Winners receive $50,000 each. Finalists were drawn from a pool of books reviewed by Kirkus editors. That included 608 young readers' literature titles, 435 fiction titles, and 435 nonfiction titles.
"From gorgeously written and moving fiction, to deeply researched and clear-eyed nonfiction, to young readers' literature that entertains and educates, the finalists represent the very best books that Kirkus has seen this year," said Kirkus Reviews editor-in-chief Tom Beer in a statement.
Kirkus Reviews , founded in 1933 by Virginia Kirkus, is known among writers, publishers and readers for its starred reviews of books; the list of finalists follows, along with a quote from their Kirkus review.
The three Kirkus Prize winners will be announced on Oct. 11, 2023.
Author jamel brinkley explores loss, love & responsibility in his new book, 'witness', author jamel brinkley explores loss, love & responsibility in his new book, 'witness'.
Witness by Jamel Brinkley (Farrar, Straus and Giroux) "Short stories that in their depth of feeling, perception, and sense of place affirm their author's bright promise....After just two collections, Brinkley may already be a grand master of the short story."
Eco-idealism and staggering wealth meet in 'birnam wood'.
Birnam Wood by Eleanor Catton (Farrar, Straus and Giroux) "A story that's suspended on a tightrope just above nihilism, and readers will hold their breath until the last page to see whether Catton will fall. This blistering look at the horrors of late capitalism manages to also be a wildly fun read."
White Cat, Black Dog by Kelly Link (Random House) "Seven modern fairy tales by a master of the short form....Enchanting, mesmerizing, brilliant work."
James McBride's 'Heaven & Earth' is an all-American mix of prejudice and hope
The Heaven & Earth Grocery Store by James McBride (Riverhead) "McBride follows up his hit novel Deacon King Kong with another boisterous hymn to community, mercy, and karmic justice....If it's possible for America to have a poet laureate, why can't James McBride be its storyteller-in-chief?"
The Bee Sting by Paul Murray (Farrar, Straus and Giroux) "An Irish family's decline is rendered in painful, affecting detail....A grim and demanding and irresistible anatomy of misfortune."
Let Us Descend by Jesmyn Ward (Scribner) "Every time you think this novel is taking you places you've been before, Ward startles you with an image, a metaphor, a rhetorical surge that [is] worth your attention. And admiration."
'Red Memory' aims to profile people shaped by China's Cultural Revolution
Red Memory: The Afterlives of China's Cultural Revolution by Tania Branigan (Norton) "The former China correspondent for the Guardian explores the 'cumulative forgetting' of the devastations of the Cultural Revolution....A heartbreaking, revelatory evocation of 'the decade that cleaved modern China in two.' "
Mr. B: George Balanchine's 20th Century by Jennifer Homans (Random House) "An intricate, meticulously researched biography of the revered and controversial dance icon....The definitive account of a remarkable and flawed artist."
A survivor of multiple suicide attempts explains 'how not to kill yourself'.
How Not to Kill Yourself: A Portrait of the Suicidal Mind by Clancy Martin (Pantheon) "A recovering alcoholic reflects on his experiences with suicidal ideation....Disquieting, deeply felt, eye-opening, and revelatory."
How to Say Babylon: A Memoir by Safiya Sinclair (Simon & Schuster) "A tale of reckoning and revelation focused on the author's fraught relationship with her father....More than catharsis; this is memoir as liberation."
Our Migrant Souls: A Meditation on Race and the Meanings and Myths of "Latino" by Héctor Tobar (MCD/Farrar, Straus and Giroux) "A pensive examination of the many ways there are to be Latinx in America....A powerful look at what it means to be a member of a community that, though large, remains marginalized."
Ilyon Woo's new book explores the relentless pursuit of freedom
Master Slave Husband Wife: An Epic Journey from Slavery to Freedom by Ilyon Woo (Simon & Schuster) "A gripping adventure with Ellen Craft (1826-1891) and William Craft (1824-1900), who risked their lives to escape slavery in Georgia in 1848....A captivating tale that ably captures the determination and courage of a remarkable couple."
- literary awards
Jesmyn Ward, James McBride among authors nominated at 10th annual Kirkus Prizes
NEW YORK — Novels by Jesmyn Ward and James McBride and story collections by Jamal Brinkley and Kelly Link are among the finalists Wednesday for the 10th annual Kirkus Prizes, for which winners in fiction, nonfiction and young reader's literature each receive $50,000.
Kirkus judges selected six books for each of the three categories, with winners to be announced Oct. 11. The awards are presented by the trade publication Kirkus Reviews.
Ward's slave narrative "Let Us Descend" and McBride's 20th century tale "The Heaven & Earth Grocery Store" were nominated in fiction, along with Brinkley's "Witness," Link's "White Cat, Black Dog," the acclaimed Irish novelist Paul Murray's "The Bee Sting" and New Zealander Eleanor Catton's "Birnam Wood."
Jesmyn Ward: Author becomes youngest person to win Library of Congress fiction prize
In nonfiction, finalists include Jennifer Homan's George Balanchine biography "Mr. B," Safiya Sinclair's memoir "How To Say Babylon" and Tania Branigan's "Red Memory: The Afterlives of China's Cultural Revolution." The other nonfiction nominees are Clancy Martin's "How Not To Kill Yourself: A Portrait of the Suicidal Mind," Héctor Tobar's "Our Migrant Souls: A Meditation on Race and the Meanings and Myths of 'Latino'" and Ilyon Woo's "Master Slave Husband Wife: An Epic Journey From Slavery to Freedom."
Check out: USA TODAY's weekly Best-selling Booklist
Young people's literature nominees include Valerie Bolling's "Together We Swim," illustrated by Kaylani Juanita; and the Brazilian author Roger Mello's "João," translated from Portuguese by Daniel Hahn. Others cited were Kiran Millwood Hargrave's "Julia and the Shark," illustrated by Tom de Freston; Jon Klassen's "The Skull;" Ariel Aberg-Riger's "America Redux;" and Louise Finch's "The Eternal Return of Clara Hart."
More: James McBride's 'Heaven & Earth Grocery Store' and more must-read new book releases
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Authors Jesmyn Ward and James McBride are among the nominees for the 10th annual Kirkus Prizes
This combination of images shows book cover images for “Let Us Descend” by Jesmyn Ward, left, and “The Heaven & Earth Grocery Store” by James McBride. Novels by Jesmyn Ward and James McBride and story collections by Jamal Brinkley and Kelly Link are among the finalists for the Kirkus Prizes, for which winners in fiction, nonfiction and young reader’s literature each receive $50,000. Kirkus judges selected six books for each of the three categories, with winners to be announced Oct. 11. (Scribner/Riverhead via AP)
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NEW YORK (AP) — Novels by Jesmyn Ward and James McBride and story collections by Jamal Brinkley and Kelly Link are among the finalists Wednesday for the 10th annual Kirkus Prizes, for which winners in fiction, nonfiction and young reader’s literature each receive $50,000.
Kirkus judges selected six books for each of the three categories, with winners to be announced Oct. 11. The awards are presented by the trade publication Kirkus Reviews.
Ward’s slave narrative “Let Us Descend” and McBride’s 20th century tale “The Heaven & Earth Grocery Store” were nominated in fiction, along with Brinkley’s “Witness,” Link’s “White Cat, Black Dog,” the acclaimed Irish novelist Paul Murray’s “The Bee Sting” and New Zealander Eleanor Catton’s “Birnam Wood.”
In nonfiction, finalists include Jennifer Homan’s George Balanchine biography “Mr. B,” Safiya Sinclair’s memoir “How To Say Babylon” and Tania Branigan’s “Red Memory: The Afterlives of China’s Cultural Revolution.” The other nonfiction nominees are Clancy Martin’s “How Not To Kill Yourself: A Portrait of the Suicidal Mind,” Héctor Tobar’s “Our Migrant Souls: A Meditation on Race and the Meanings and Myths of ‘Latino’” and Ilyon Woo’s “Master Slave Husband Wife: An Epic Journey From Slavery to Freedom.”
Young people’s literature nominees include Valerie Bolling’s “Together We Swim,” illustrated by Kaylani Juanita; and the Brazilian author Roger Mello’s “João,” translated from the Portuguese by Daniel Hahn. Others cited were Kiran Millwood Hargrave’s “Julia and the Shark,” illustrated by Tom de Freston; Jon Klassen’s “The Skull;” Ariel Aberg-Riger’s “America Redux;" and Louise Finch’s “The Eternal Return of Clara Hart.”