Image by Chloe Barter

Annie Freud

b. 1948

I jot one down and, like a sunbather,/ it turns and looks at me as if to say,/ OK, you've written me down. Fine!/ Go and amuse yourself somewhere! Annie Freud - from 'The Manipulation of Words'

Interlude for Xylophone, Banjo and Trumpet

Annie Freud

The Best Man That Ever Was

Annie Freud

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About Annie Freud

Annie Freud was born in London in 1948. She is the daughter of painter Lucian Freud, maternal grand-daughter of sculptor Sir Jacob Epstein, and the great grand daughter of Sigmund Freud. Her parents separated when she was four, and she lived with both sets of grandparents; London, in term-time and on the Suffolk coast in the holidays until her mother remarried the economist Wynne Godley. She saw her father regularly throughout her childhood and he painted many portraits of her. They often dined in the company of artists, including Francis Bacon and Frank Auerbach.

Freud was educated at the Lycee Francais de Londres and then studied English and European Literature at Warwick University. Since 1975, she has worked intermittently as a tapestry artist and embroiderer, exhibiting work and undertaking commissions from people such as Anthony D'Offay, Jon Snow and Graham Norton. In comparing the making of her poems to the making of her visual art, Freud writes "I think it is the process of dredging, choosing, selecting and rejecting what material is there that is so exciting. Even if I eventually chuck most of it out as unnecessary soft furnishing, that's how I often discover what my subject matter might be."

She didn’t begin writing poetry till the late 1990's. Seeing Anne Carson read at Poetry International was an awakening for Freud, as she describes being "electrified by [Carson’s] grief. Here was something grand, disturbing, like a horse rearing up on its hind legs in protest." When she did start writing, she enjoyed reading to an audience and attending poetry readings for a number of years and in 2006, Donut Press offered to publish her pamphlet A Voids Officer Achieves the Tree Pose. Her first full collection from Picador appeared shortly afterwards: The Best Man Who Ever Was was a Poetry Book Society Recommendation in 2007, and went on to receive the Glen Dimplex New Writers' Award (Poetry) in the same year.

Freud has been described as a poet who writes with "real gusto". A Guardian review talks about the "obvious delight' that she takes in language, describing The Best Man That Ever Was as a "magpie-like collection of odd and beautiful words and phrases". Freud's poems are chaotic, hectic and witty; are a romp through London, its melancholy and beauty; are a sumptuous tumble through love, appetites and desire. In the filmic 'Interlude for Xylophone, Banjo and Trumpet', our hero receives a phone call in the first stanza which sets him off on a vaguely amphibrachic walk, taking in the noise and the bustle of the city, ending with an unsatisfactory bowl of custard in a cafe served by an 'adorable waitress'.

Hearing Annie Freud's recording shows her speaking voice to be anchored somehow to her poetic voice; rich and mildly flirtatious. And when she suggests in her introduction to 'The Best Man that Ever Was' that we make the dessert zabaglione for ourselves, we know that from breaking the first egg to eating the last mouthful, it will be sensual, delicious.

This recording was made on the 29th November, 2007 at the Audio Workshop, London and was produced by Richard Carrington.

Annie Freud's Favourite Poetry Sayings:

"Some have accused me of a strange design/ Against the creed and morals of this land,/ And trace it in this poem, every line./ I don't pretend that I quite understand/ My own meaning when I would be very fine;/ But he fact is that I have nothing planned/ Except perhaps to be a moment merry ..." - Lord Byron from 'Don Juan'

"The chief use of the 'meaning' of a poem, in the ordinary sense, may be (for here again I am speaking of some kinds of poetry and not all) to satisfy one habit of the reader, to keep his mind diverted and quiet, while the poem does its work upon him: much as the imaginary burglar is always provided with a nice piece of meat for the house-dog. " - TS Eliot - 'The Use of Poetry and the Use of Criticism'

"And I always thought/ the very simplest words must be enough./ When I say what things are like/ everyone's hearts must be torn to shreds/ and that you'll go down if you don't stand up for yourself./ Surely you see that./ " - Bertolt Brecht (trans. Michael Hamburger) -'And I Always Thought'

Additional material and useful links

The Female Poem

From the Aldeburgh Poetry Festival 2009, a new podcast on 'The Female Poem': a lively and wide-ranging discussion between Jo Shapcott, Maureen Duffy, Pascale Petit and Annie Freud....


201 TS Eliot (shortlist) <i>The Mirabelles</i>

2010 TS Eliot (shortlist) <i>The Mirabelles</i>

Selected bibliography

The Mirabelles Picador, 2010

A Voids Officer Achieves the Tree Pose, Donut Press 2006


The Best man that Ever Was, Picador 2007


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