Image by Norman McBeath

Douglas Dunn

b. 1942


Among the finest of our poets. - Melvyn Bragg

Washing the Coins

Douglas Dunn

A Removal from Terry Street

Douglas Dunn

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About Douglas Dunn

Douglas Dunn (b. 1942) was awarded an OBE in 2003 for his services to literature over a career that includes many books of plays, poems, essays and fiction, as author and editor, and awards such as the Hawthornden Prize, the Cholmondely Award, and the Whitbread Book of the Year Award for Elegies, probably his best-known work. He also writes for various journals and newspapers, and taught at the University of St Andrews from 1989 to 2008.

The intimate lyrics of Elegies are addressed to the memory of the poet's first wife, who died in 1981 - "too ill, too quick", as 'France' has it. This collection of powerful, tender poems of mourning is justly celebrated; Kate Kellaway, for example, has written that she "found it hard to read without weeping." In these poems , the tragedy is presented in the form of windows full of commiserating flowers, of empty rooms, of (in 'Empty Wardrobes') "The clothes she gave as keepsakes to friends," and this the poignancy of this presentation shows the power of formal and emotional restraint.

Dunn's other work embraces a wide range of material, including openly political address, celebrations of working class life, and a cheerful eulogy to the inventor of the saxophone, Adolphe Sax. The reading concludes with a pair of poems that he tells his listeners were written out of, firstly, "teenage sexual angst" and a second out of "late middle-aged sexual angst".

The work read on this recording shows Dunn to be a poet drawn to the musical effects of formal verse, particularly - and appropriately - in 'Loch Music', in which he hears "the rhythms of a loch" in a recording of Bach, "And what I hear is what I see / A summer night's divinity". His 1993 collection, Dante's Drum-Kit, is named for terza rima, the metrical form of interlinking rhymes used in Dante's Divine Comedy and in the extract from Dunn's poem 'Disenchantments' on this recording.

Dunn has said, in an interview, that he tells his students a good poem should work in the mind, in the heart and in the ear, and that "The reader has a right to expect these three things simultaneously." In this warm and well-balanced performance, his work can be heard, felt and understood at one and the same time.

His recording was made for the Poetry Archive on 8 August 2007 at Bona Broadcasting Ltd, Edinburgh, and was produced by Turan Ali.

Prizes

1968 Eric Gregory Award

1968 Eric Gregory Award

1970 Scottish Arts Council Award

1970 Scottish Arts Council Book Award

1972 Somerset Maugham Award

1972 Somerset Maugham Award

1975 Scottish Arts Council Book Award

1975 Scottish Arts Council Book Award

1976 Geoffrey Faber Memorial Prize

1976 Geoffrey Faber Memorial Prize

1981 Hawthornden Prize

1981 Hawthornden Prize

1985 Whitbread Book of the Year

1985 Whitbread Book of the Year

1989 Cholmondeley Award

1989 Cholmondeley Award

2003 OBE

2003 OBE

Selected bibliography

Invisible Ink, Mariscat Press, 2011

Twentieth Century Scottish Poetry edited by Douglas Dunn...

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Robert Browning: Poems Selected by Douglas Dunn, Faber...

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New Selected Poems 1964-2000, Faber and Faber 2003

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Essays, Faber and Faber 2003

The Year's Afternoon, Faber and Faber 2000

The Donkey's Ears, Faber and Faber 2000

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The Oxford Book of Scottish Short Stories (editor),...

Boyfriends and Girlfriends, Faber and Faber 1995

Selected Poems: Alaisdair D. F. Macrae, Longman 1993

Dante's Drum Kit, Faber and Faber 1993

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Scotland: An Anthology (editor), HarperCollins 1991

The Poll Tax: The Fiscal Fake ('Counterblasts' series),...

Andromache/Racine (translator), Faber and Faber 1990

Northlight, Faber and Faber 1988

Under the Influence: Douglas Dunn on Philip Larkin,...

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Going to Aberlemno, Book Trust Scotland 1987

Selected Poems 1964-1983, Faber and Faber 1986

Secret Villages, Faber and Faber 1985

Elegies, Faber and Faber 1985

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To Build a Bridge, Lincolnshire and Humberside Arts 1982

Europa's Lover, Bloodaxe 1982

A Rumoured City: New Poets from Hull (editor), Bloodaxe...

St. Kilda's Parliament, Faber and Faber 1981

The Poetry of Scotland (editor), Batsford 1979

Barbarians, Faber and Faber 1979

What Is To Be Given: Poems of Delmore Schwartz (editor...

Love or Nothing, Faber and Faber 1974

A Choice of Byron's Verse (editor), Faber and Faber 1974

New Poetry: The PEN Anthology (editor), Faber and Faber...

The Happier Life, Faber and Faber 1972

Terry Street, Faber and Faber 1969

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