Image by Norman McBeath

Jenny Joseph

b. 1932

Why are we frightened of the word for love? - 'Language teaching: naming', Jenny Joseph

Rose in the afternoon

Jenny Joseph

Fables - Cutting off one's ears for someone else is wrong

Jenny Joseph

The sun has burst the sky

Jenny Joseph

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About Jenny Joseph

Jenny Joseph (b. 1932) is originally from Birmingham but her first remembered home was in leafy Buckinghamshire. She read English at St Hilda's College Oxford. A variety of occupations has included being a newspaper reporter, lecturer in language and literature and landlady of a London pub. Her poems were first published when she was at university at the beginning of the 1950's, her first book, The Unlooked-for Season, appearing in 1960. This collection won a Gregory Award whilst her second, Rose in the Afternoon, was recognised by a Cholmondeley Award. In 1992 the bulk of her first four books of poems was reprinted in Selected Poems by Bloodaxe Books and it's from this volume that the poems she has chosen for her Archive recording are taken. Her varied output includes poetry for children as well as adults, books that combine prose and poetry (Persephone) and different forms of prose fictions (Extended Similes). She has collaborated with photographers (Beached Boats), painters, musicians, actors and dancers, and worked with speakers of poetry and voice teachers to encourage the learning and speaking of poetry. She currently lives in Gloucestershire.

Of this earlier work featured in her Archive recording a reviewer wrote: "She can delineate surfaces like a sculptor - exact, precise, sharply definite - yet with a startling undertow, a pull of unease which lies just beneath the texture like an artery beneath the skin" (Joan Forman, Eastern Daily Press) and another: "She has a flair for haunting images which she builds up into canvases of considerable power." These qualities are to the fore in her online poems, such as the meditative 'Rose in the Afternoon' or the uncompromising 'Untitled' with its appalled concentration on cruelty. Other tones are also present though, in the lyric joy of 'The sun has burst the sky' or the wisely satirical 'Cutting off one's ears for someone else is wrong', reflecting Joseph's abiding interest in using in her writing the wide range of register of spoken English.

Her reading style emphasises the many voices of her work - melancholy, anguished, humorous. Her own tones bring her different narrators to life so that the listener feels directly engaged in poems "strange in what they say but plain in the way they say it" (The Times).

Her recording was made for The Poetry Archive on 2 September 2003 at DB Studios, Stroud, Gloucestershire, UK and was produced by Richard Carrington.

Selected bibliography

Nothing Like Love, Enitharmon 2009


Extreme of things, Bloodaxe, 2006


Led by the nose: a garden of smells, Souvenir Press,...

All the things I see, London, Macmillan Children's Books...


Extended Similes, Bloodaxe, 1997


Warning (illustrated poem), London, Souvenir Press, 1997


Ghosts and other company, Bloodaxe, 1995


Selected Poems, Bloodaxe, 1992


Beached Boats, London, Enitharmon Press, 1991 - out of...


The Inland Sea, California, USA, Papier Mache Press,...

Persephone, Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Bloodaxe, 1986 - out of...

Beyond Descartes, Secker & Warburg, 1983 - out of print

The Thinking Heart, London, Secker...

Rose in the Afternoon, London, J. M. Dent, 1974 - out of...

The Nursery Series - various titles, Constable Young...

The Unlooked-for Season, Northwood, Scorpion Press, 1960...

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