Nationality: British. Born: Edward Joseph Walker, Lancing, Sussex, 28 November 1934. Education: Steyning Grammar School; St. John's College, Cambridge, B.A. (honors) in modern languages 1956, M.A. 1977. Military Service: Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve. Family: Married 1) Lorna Benfell in 1956 (died 1987), two daughters and two sons; 2) Audrey Joan Hicks in 1988. Career: Assistant French master, North Paddington Secondary School, 1956–58; head of French, Southall Technical School, Middlesex, 1958–63; head of modern languages, William Fletcher School, Bognor Regis, Sussex, 1963–65; assistant master of French, Spanish, and English literature, and head of general studies, Chichester High School, Sussex, 1965–70. Poet-in-residence, assistant professor, associate professor, and professor of creative writing, 1971–92, and since 1992 emeritus professor, New England College, Arundel, Sussex. Founder with John Cotton and editor since 1962, Priapus, Berkhamsted, Hertfordshire. Awards: Eric Gregory award, 1964; Cholmondeley award, 1966; Alice Hunt Bartlett prize, 1968; Arts Council travel grant, 1978;P.E.N. Ackerley prize, for autobiography, 1983; Campion prize; Society of Authors travel bursary; Southern Arts Society literature bursary. D.Litt.: Southampton University, 1995. Fellow, Royal Society of Literature. Agent: David Higham Associates Ltd., 5–8 Lower John Street, London W1R 4HA. Address: Argyll House, The Square, Eastergate, Chichester, West Sussex PO20 6UP, England.
Those Other Growths. Leeds, Northern House, 1964.
Fox on a Barn Door: Poems 1963–4. London, Cape, 1965; New York, Braziller, 1966.
The Solitaries: Poems 1964–5. London, Cape, and New York, Braziller, 1967.
The Night Bathers: Poems 1966–8. London, Cape, 1970.
Gloves to the Hangman: Poems 1969–72. London, Cape, 1973.
Burning the Ivy: Poems 1973–77. London, Cape, 1978.
The Lion's Cavalcade (for children). London, Cape, 1980.
Hands at a Live Fire: Selected Poems. London, Secker and Warburg, 1987.
The Last of England. London, Cape, 1992.
Grandad's Seagulls (for children). London, Blackie Children's, 1994.
Mangoes on the Moon: Poems 1992–1998. London, London Magazine Editions, 1999.
Recording: Modern Poetry, with John Wain, BFA, 1972.
Radio Scripts: The Final Miracle, 1979; The Third Person, 1980; The Trotliners, 1981; A Hill in Southern England, 1982; Before Crufts, 1983; A Portrait of William Plomer, 1983; Big Jim and the Figaro Club, 1987.
Television Plays: Big Jim and the Figaro Club, 1980 (film), 1981(series); The Gaffer, 1983; A Family Man, 1984; Marshwood Vale; The Gaffer; Barbed Water; Wind in the Willows, 1995
You've Never Heard Me Sing: Selected Short Stories 1968–1983. London, Heinemann, 1980
The High Path (autobiography). London, Routledge, 1985.
In Spain. London, Secker and Warburg, 1987.*
Manuscript Collection: Lockwood Memorial Library, State University of New York, Buffalo.
Ted Walker comments:
My poetry seems to deal with loneliness and isolation. Since I live in the country, my imagery tends to be rural and even regional. My territory is Sussex and the Sussex coast.* * *
Much of Ted Walker's poetry is in the great tradition of English nature poetry, which stretches in modern times from Wordsworth to Ted Hughes. In Walker's case it is a poetry that, while one of close and accurate detail, looks beyond external nature to observe parallels and draw implications related to the human condition: "regret / the vacant seemliness / by which we live. For which we lost / that proper, vital gift of waste" ("Crocuses"). The territory of Walker's poetry is the seashore, with its inlets and breakwaters, and the isolated, lonely areas of the English countryside, including the creatures that inhabit them. He draws a parallel between the ultimate solitude of the human soul when confronting the universe in which it finds itself and the dissatisfaction of humans in contrast to the aptness and completeness of the rest of the animal kingdom in relation to their environment. The isolation of the situations depicted in the poems reflects man looking both within himself and out toward "that God I won't believe in" for something beyond immediate experience to meet spiritual loneliness. It is not without significance that the title of one of Walker's early collections is The Solitaries.
In The Night Bathers there is a shift of emphasis. The same qualities of precise observation and craftsmanship are present, but the poet has grown older, and the past is beginning to haunt the present and enrich and give it depth of meaning. The title poem explores the poet's relationship with his son as a reflection of the relationship between himself and his own father:
when he was young to understand
why, momently out of the night
and purposeful beyond the reach
of all his worry, I had swum
deep into banks of sea-fret
too far to have to answer him.
There also is a clearly observable growth in Walker's technical mastery, which allows him to relax his earlier tight control and use a language closer to the colloquial. This development continues in his collection Gloves to the Hangman, including such poems as "Letter to Barbados," which has an ease of expression that gives the work an immediacy of reception without any diminution of strength: "Dear far-off brother. Thank you for yours, / And for the gift you send of little shells."
In the collection Burning the Ivy we find Walker using his skill to write poetry of a more directly personal dimension. The personae are abandoned, and a more vulnerable area of feeling and emotion is explored and expressed, often tellingly so as in the elegy for William Plomer, "After the Funeral," and the poem for Paul Coltman on his retirement, "For His Old English Master." There is a feeling of getting nearer to the truth of things here than in the earlier assaults on the universal design of things, splendid as the earlier works are.
In It could be that it was Walker's striving toward this truth that led him to all but abandon poetry for prose and drama, as he did with such splendid and moving effect in his autobiographical The High Path and in a television play about his father. He has published relatively little poetry since Burning the Ivy, but after several years of poetic silence Walker emerged in 1999 with a welcome collection, Mangoes on the Moon. He prefaces the new book with
When uninspired, a poet should stay mute;
My muse went AWOL, so I pawned my lute.
The first part of this Lazarus-like collection consists of poems written about his stay in Australia. In them he catches with his old precision the matey, relaxed comradeship of the hearty outdoor, beachside, camping, barbie life he enjoyed there:
Weeks later, content to be lazing
By savage waters, laid back as hippies,
We browse—not according to the clock,
But whenever burnt-meat barbie smells
Bring the memory of hunger back.
The second part of the book is full of Walker's movingly and deeply felt memories of his first wife, his father, and his grandchildren and of old friends, as in "For Andrew Young":
While your Woodbine ash lengthened and drooped
But would not fall to soil your clerical chest,
ignorance burned inside me; and stray wisps
Of stupidity dried my discomforted lips.
'What do you know of Prehistory?' you offered.
As shown in "For His Dead Wife," Walker's ability to rouse deep emotions and feelings is still with him:
Forgive me, that you looked the bride
You'd been; who slept at peace, alone,
Warm after love.
He has not lost his touch nor his writing hand its cunning.