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Fuller, John (Leopold)

FULLER, John (Leopold)


Nationality: British. Born: Ashford, Kent, 1 January 1937; son of Roy Fuller. Education: Attended St. Paul's School; New College, Oxford (editor, Isis, 1959; Newdigate prize, 1960), B.A. 1960, M.A. 1964, B.Litt. 1965. Military Service: Royal Air Force, 1955–57. Family: Married Cicely Prudence Martin in 1960; three daughters. Career: Visiting lecturer, State University of New York, Buffalo, 1962–63; assistant lecturer, Manchester University, 1963–66. Since 1966 fellow, Magdalen College, Oxford. Co-founder, Review magazine, 1962; publisher, Sycamore Press, Oxford. Awards: Newigate prize, 1960; Richard Hillary memorial prize, 1961; Eric Gregory award, 1965; Faber memorial prize, 1974; Prudence Farmer prize (New Statesman), 1975; Southern Arts prize, 1980; Cholmondeley award, 1983; Whitbread award, 1983; Forward prize, 1996. Fellow, Royal Society of Literature. Agent: Patricia Kavanagh, Peters Fraser and Dunlop, Drury House, 34–43 Russell Street, London WC2B 5HA, England. Address: 4 Benson Place. Oxford, England.

Publications

Poetry

Fairground Music. London, Chatto and Windus-Hogarth Press, 1961.

The Tree That Walked. London, Chatto and Windus-Hogarth Press, 1967.

The Art of Love. Oxford, The Review, 1968.

The Labours of Hercules: A Sonnet Sequence. Manchester, Manchester Institute of Contemporary Arts, 1969.

Three London Songs, music by Bryan Kelly. London, Novello, 1969.

Annotations of Giant's Town. London, Poem-of-the-Month Club, 1970.

The Wreck. London, Turret, 1970.

Cannibals and Missionaries. London, Secker and Warburg, 1972.

Boys in a Pie. London, Steam Press, 1972.

Hut Groups. Hitchin, Hertfordshire, Cellar Press, 1973.

Penguin Modern Poets 22, with Adrian Mitchell and Peter Levi. London, Penguin, 1973.

Epistles to Several Persons. London, Secker and Warburg, 1973.

Poems and Epistles. Boston, Godine, 1974.

Squeaking Crust (for children). London, Chatto and Windus, 1974.

A Bestiary. Oxford, Sycamore Press, 1974.

The Mountain in the Sea. London, Secker and Warburg, 1975.

Bel and the Dragon. Oxford, Sycamore Press, 1977.

The Wilderness. Buffalo, Lockwood Memorial Library, 1977.

Lies and Secrets. London, Secker and Warburg, 1979.

The Illusionists: A Tale. London, Secker and Warburg, 1980.

The January Divan. Hitchin, Hertfordshire, Mandeville Press, 1980.

The Ship of Sounds. Sidcot, Somerset, Gruffyground, 1981.

Waiting for the Music. Edinburgh, Salamander Press, 1982.

The Beautiful Inventions. London, Secker and Warburg, 1983.

Come Aboard and Sail Away (for children). Edinburgh, Salamander Press, 1983.

Selected Poems 1954–1982. London, Secker and Warburg, 1985.

Partingtime Hall, with James Fenton. London, Viking Salamander, 1987.

The Grey among the Green. London, Chatto and Windus, 1988.

The Mechanical Body. London, Chatto and Windus, 1991.

Stones and Fires. London, Chatto and Windus, 1996.

Collected Poems. London, Chatto and Windus, 1996.

Plays

Herod Do Your Worst, music by Bryan Kelly (produced Thame, Oxfordshire, 1967). London, Novello, 1968.

Half a Fortnight, music by Bryan Kelly (produced Leicester, 1970). London, Novello, 1973.

The Spider Monkey Uncle King, music by Bryan Kelly (produced Cookham, Berkshire, 1971). London, Novello, 1979.

Fox-Trot, music by Bryan Kelly (produced Leicester, 1972).

The Queen in the Golden Tree, music by Bryan Kelly (produced Edinburgh, 1974).

How Did You Get Here, Jonno? music by Bryan Kelly (produced Wolverhampton, 1975).

The Ship of Sounds, music by Bryan Kelly (produced Leicester, 1975). London, Barry Brunton, 1986.

Adam's Apple, music by Bryan Kelly (produced Abingdon, Oxfordshire, 1975).

Linda, music by Bryan Kelly (produced Reading, 1975). Published as Biscuit Girl, London, Barry Brunton, 1986.

St. Francis of Assisi, music by Bryan Kelly (produced London, 1981). London, Barry Brunton, 1986.

Novels

Flying to Nowhere. Edinburgh, Salamander Press, 1983; New York, Braziller, 1984.

Tell It Me Again. London, Chatto and Windus, 1988.

The Burning Boys. London, Chatto and Windus, 1989.

Look Twice. London, Chatto and Windus, 1991.

A Skin Diary. London, Chatto and Windus, 1997.

Short Stories

The Adventures of Speedfall. Edinburgh, Salamander Press, 1985.

The Worm and the Star. London, Chatto and Windus, 1993.

Other

A Reader's Guide to W.H. Auden. London, Thames and Hudson, and New York, Farrar Straus, 1970.

The Sonnet. London, Methuen, 1972.

The Last Bid (for children). London, Deutsch. 1975.

Carving Trifles: William King's Imitation of Horace (lecture). London, Oxford University Press, 1976.

The Extraordinary Wool Mill and Other Stories (for children). London, Deutsch, 1980.

W.H. Auden: A Commentary. London, Faber and Faber, and Princeton, New Jersey, Princeton University Press, 1998.

Editor, with others, Light Blue Dark Blue: An Anthology of Recent Writings from Oxford and Cambridge Universities. London, Macdonald, 1960.

Editor, Oxford Poetry 1960. Oxford, Fantasy Press, 1960.

Editor, Poetry Supplement. London, Poetry Book Society, 1962.

Editor, with Harold Pinter and Peter Redgrove, New Poems 1967. London, Hutchinson, 1968.

Editor, Poetry Supplement. London, Poetry Book Society, 1970.

Editor, Nemo's Almanac. Oxford, Sycamore Press, 1971.

Editor, New Poetry 8. London, Hutchinson, 1982.

Editor, Dramatic Works, by John Gay. Oxford, Clarendon Press, 2 vols., 1983.

Editor, with Howard Sergeant, The Gregory Poets 1983–84. Edinburgh, Salamander Press, 1984.

Editor, The Chatto Book of Love Poetry. London, Chatto and Windus, 1990.

*

Critical Studies: "The Poetry of John Fuller" by Edward Mendelson, in New Republic (Washington, D.C.), 28 May 1977; John Fuller: The Mountain in the Sea by Claudio Natale, Tesi di Laurea, Universita Degli Studi di Palermo, 1983; "An Interview with John Fuller" by Mick Imlah, in Poetry Review (London), 72(4), January 1983; "The Poetry of John Fuller," Antigonish Review (Antigonish, Canada), 57, spring 1984, and "The New Zest in British Poetry: The Influence of John Fuller," in Quadrant (Victoria, Australia), 30(11), November 1986, both by Michael Hulse; "Coming to Life-The Poetry of John Fuller" by Brian Hinton, in Jellyfish Cupful: Writings in Honour of John Fuller, edited by Barney Cokeliss and James Fenton, London, Ulysses, 1997; "John Fuller's Lines of Flight" by David Pascoe, in Essays in Criticism (England), 48(4), October 1998; "Mapping the Margins: Translation, Invasion and Celtic Islands in Brian Moore and John Fuller" by Sophie Gilmartin, in An Introduction to Contemporary Fiction: International Writing in English since 1970, edited by Rod Mengham, Cambridge, England, Polity, 1999.

*  *  *

Though appreciating John Fuller's technical control, skilled craftsmanship, and intelligence, reviewers have also noted "a seriousness lacking at the heart of his work," "the impression of a rooted reticence," and a "sense of uneasiness." Selected Poems 1954–1982 traces his progress and, indeed, his versatility from the wit of Fairground Music to the depth of feeling of The Beautiful Inventions, illustrating along the way his ability to be entertaining, lyrical, provocative, discerning, philosophical, and continually surprising. His succeeding books have continued to show this, with Fuller's comic voice blending with James Fenton's games playing in Partingtime Hall and a diversity of themes and moods emerging in The Grey among the Green.

Despite the variety of subject and stance, all of Fuller's poems are accomplished, elegant, and technically sophisticated. His control of language and of form—concern with technique, structure, and order and with the manipulation of words—produces a detachment that moderates the immediate impact of the ideas expressed by the poems, rather than the poet, but makes them no less powerful. Indeed, the power of the poetry lies in the artfulness with which meanings are implied rather than directly stated, whether through jokes, riddles, and games (as in Lies and Secrets or The Illusionists) or through the astonishing, unexpected imagery that Fuller frequently employs, as in the sea associations of "Girl with Coffee Tray" (Fairground Music), the speaking hedges in "Hedge Tutor" (The Tree That Walked), or the little boy with the toy tank in "Galata Bridge" (The Beautiful Inventions).

The relationship between poetry and reality has always concerned Fuller. In "A Dialogue between Caliban and Ariel" (Fair-ground Music) he notes the limitations of language in contemplating, mirroring, or determining truth or reality: "For all their declaration / And complexity, / Words cannot see …" and are mere tokens ("Words are but counters in a childish game …") rather than agents or effective tools ("Words would not help the channeled sea to prove / It was not ocean-free, nor pine no fuel …"). This concern is still very much with him twenty-seven years later in The Grey among the Green, where we are told that

   A mountain is a mountain is
   Itself, lasting, indifferent, proud.
   The poet on his human throne
   Has often wished that he were stone,
   Or fluid, or a cloud.

The similarities often seen between Fuller's poetry and Auden's make the "rooted reticence" noted above less a criticism perhaps than a reminder of Auden's lines "truth in any serious sense, / Like orthodoxy, is a reticence" ("The Truest Poetry Is the Most Feigning"). At the same time the alleged "sense of uneasiness" may arise from Fuller's overriding dependence on the order and structure of a poem rather than on the words themselves. There are limits to what can be articulated or directly stated in poetry. For Fuller "similes should make you see / What otherwise is just asserted" (The Illusionists), while for Auden the success of a poem is achieved by the "luck of verbal playing"—at which Fuller unquestionably continues to be very clever indeed—rather than by assertion or declaration.

—B.T. Kugler

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