Cotton, John 1925-2003

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COTTON, John 1925-2003


See index for CA sketch: Born March 7, 1925, in London, England; died March 20, 2003, in Hemel Hempstead, Hertfordshire, England. School administrator and author. Cotton was a respected poet who, in his work, reflected on themes relating to the disparity between reality and personal desires. He attended Acton Technical College, and during World War II was an officer with the Royal Naval Commandos, seeing action in the Far East. Upon his return to England, he completed his bachelor's degree at Birkbeck College, London. From 1947 to 1957 he taught English in Middlesex, followed by six years as head of the English department at Southall Grammar Technical School. He next became headmaster of Highfield Comprehensive School in Hemel Hempstead, where he remained until his retirement in 1985. Cotton's first attempts at writing were novels, but after realizing no success in publishing them he switched his emphasis to poetry. Cofounding the literary magazine Priapus with fellow poet Ted Walker, Cotton eventually helped organize Priapus Press, through which he published his first verse collection, Fourteen Poems, in 1967. His first great success with poetry came when the Poetry Society recommended his 1971 collection Old Movies and Other Poems, which also won a publication award from the Arts Council of Great Britain. His Kilroy Was Here (1974) was a Poetry Society selection a few years later. While both these collections were published by Chatto & Windus, Cotton never managed to duplicate these successes, and the remainder of his verses were published by smaller, less-prestigious presses. Nevertheless, Cotton was content to continue publishing his works while earning a living as a headmaster. Some of his later works include The Totleigh Riddles (1981), The Crystal Zoo (1985), Here's Looking at You Kid (1992), and the children's-verse collection Oscar the Dog and Friends (1994). He was also active in literary societies, serving as a chairman and council member in the National Poetry Society and as a president of Ver Poets and the Toddington Poetry Society. His honors include being appointed deputy lieutenant of the county of Hertfordshire in 1989. At the time of his death, a new book of poems, Out There in Rows, was in press.



Contemporary Poets, seventh edition, St. James Press (Detroit, MI), 2001.

Writers Directory, 18th edition, St. James Press (Detroit, MI), 2003.


Independent (London, England), March 24, 2003, p. 20.

Times (London, England), March 31, 2003, p. 28.