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Lomas, Herbert 1924-

Lomas, Herbert 1924-

PERSONAL: Surname is pronounced "Low-muss"; born February 7, 1924, in Todmorden, England; son of Bertram (an innkeeper) and Beatrice (Garner) Lomas; married Mary Marshall Phelps (a university administrator), June 29, 1968; children: Lucinda, Matthew. Ethnicity: "English." Education: University of Liverpool, B.A. (with first class honors), 1949, M.A., 1952. Politics: Labour. Religion: Anglican.

ADDRESSES: Home—North Gable, 30 Crag Path, Aldeburgh, Suffolk IP15 5BS, England. E-mail[email protected]

CAREER: Anargyrios School, Spetsai, Greece, teacher, 1950–51; University of Helsinki, Helsinki, Finland, began as lecturer, became senior lecturer, 1952–65; West London Institute of Higher Education, London, England, began as lecturer, became a "recognized teacher of London University" and principal lecturer, 1966–83. Military service: British Army, served with King's Liverpool Regiment, 1943–44, and Sixth Battalion Royal Garhwal Rifles, North West Frontier, 1944–46; became lieutenant.

MEMBER: Society of Authors, Finnish Academy, Finnish Literature Society, Suffolk Poetry Society (president, 1999–).

AWARDS, HONORS: Guinness Prize, 1961; Cholmondeley Award for Poets, Society of Authors, 1982; Biennial Translation Award, Poetry Book Society, 1991; decorated knight first class, Finnish Order of the White Rose, 1991; Letters in the Dark was named an Observer book of the year.



Chimpanzees Are Blameless Creatures, Mandarin Books (London, England), 1969.

Private and Confidential, London Magazine Editions (London, England), 1974.

Public Footpath, Anvil Press (London, England), 1981.

Fire in the Garden, Oxford University Press (New York, NY), 1984.

Letters in the Dark, Oxford University Press (New York, NY), 1986.

Trouble, Sinclair-Stevenson (London, England), 1992.

Selected Poems, Sinclair-Stevenson (London, England), 1995.

A Useless Passion, London Magazine Editions (London, England), 1998.

The Vale of Todmorden, Arc Publications (Todmorden, West Yorkshire, England), 2003.


(And editor) Territorial Song: Contemporary Writing from Finland, London Magazine Editions (London, England), 1981.

(And editor) Contemporary Finnish Poetry, Dufour Editions (Chester Springs, PA), 1991.

Eira Stenberg, Wings of Hope and Daring (poetry), Bloodaxe Books (Newcastle-upon-Tyne, England), 1992.

Kai Nieminen, Fugue (poetry), photographs by Caj Bremer, Musta Taide (Helsinki, Finland), 1992.

Ilpo Tiihonen, Black and Red (poetry), Making Waves (Guildford, England), 1993.

Leena Krohn, The Eyes of the Fingertips Are Opening (poetry), photographs by Marja Pirila, Musta Taide (Helsinki, Finland), 1993.

Ahti, Risto, Narcissus in Winter, Making Waves (Guildford, England), 1994.

Paasilinna, Arto, The Year of the Hare (novel), Dufour Editions (Chester Springs, PA), 1995.

Eeva-Liisa Manner, Selected Poems, Making Waves (Guildford, England), 1997.

Pentti Holappa, A Tenant Here: Selected Poems, 1977–1997, Daedalus (Dublin, Ireland), 1999.

Three Finnish Poets: Arto Melleri, Risto Ahti, and Eira Stenberg, London Magazine Editions (London, England), 1999.

Iipu Tiihonen, Gaia, a Musical for Children, Suomen Kansallisteatteri (Helsinki, Finland), 2000.

Johanna Sinisalo, Not before Sundown, Peter Owen (London, England), 2003, published as Troll: A Love Story, Grove Press (New York, NY), 2004.


(With others) A Handbook of Modern English for Finnish Students, Werner Soderstrom (Helsinki, Finland), 1957.

Who Needs Money? (nonfiction), Blond & Briggs (London, England), 1972.

Critic for London, 1970–, and Ambit, 1980–. Contributor of reviews to periodicals, including Hudson Review, PN Review, Spectator, and Encounter.

SIDELIGHTS: "To summarize [Herbert] Lomas's work in a sentence," wrote Contemporary Poets essayist Rivers Carew, "it could be said that his poems have been written for the love of people, of life, and of God." Lomas began writing poetry at an early age; even during his stint in the British Army during World War II, he "already possessed a sharply observant and often sardonic eye, a disconcerting candor, and a style of his own, with a hard, cutting edge," as Carew noted. Following the war, Lomas lived and taught for thirteen years in Finland. His return to England in 1965 was marked by a creative period that produced several volumes of poetry and translations of Finnish works.

Lomas's first published poetry collection was Chimpanzees Are Blameless Creatures. "By turns conversational and conventionally formal, employing imagery veering between the urbane and the surreal, the poems discuss subjects as diverse a childhood terrors, sex, political and social issues, and religious belief," wrote Carew. He also referred to Letters in the Dark as Lomas's "most powerfully sustained and cohesive work," a series of more than fifty poems inspired by visits to London's Southwark Cathedral.

Public Footpath, another collection of Lomas's verse, includes a series of two dozen autobiographical poems called "Todmorden," which are based on his childhood in the Pennine highlands of northern England. Of Public Footpath, John Mole wrote in the Times Literary Supplement: Lomas's "approach to the making of a poem seems both strident and oblique; a somewhat morose energy seizes upon bleak scenarios and anecdotes, enlarging them into little dramas of loss, fatalism and disenchantment." Lomas's later volume of poetry, Letters in the Dark, consists of fifty-two sections linked by allusions to London's Southwark Cathedral. Times Literary Supplement contributor Grevel Lindop called two particular sections of the book "painfully honest and sharply observant" and also noted that Lomas has "a real talent for light verse." Robert McDowell, writing in the Hudson Review, commented that Lomas's "ability to see and articulate opposing views as they do battle on the plain of one man's psyche makes [him] a valuable witness." Sunday Telegraph reviewer Vernon Scannell found the poems in Trouble to be "made from the stuff that real poetry has always been made of: love, loss, celebration, and song."

Characteristic of the author's work on behalf of his Finnish counterparts is his effort on Territorial Song: Contemporary Writing from Finland, which contains poetry and short stories by twelve men and two women. Calling Lomas's translations "brilliant recreations," Times Literary Supplement contributor Anne Born elaborated: "Indeed, his style—as in his own poetry, direct and economical—is so masterly that it has a unifying effect on that of all fourteen writers. But comparison with earlier translations by other hands … shows just how good Herbert Lomas's are—tight, laconic and right on the mark."

The Finnish novel Janiksen vuosi, by Arto Paasilinna, was already a best-selling book and feature film in its native land when Lomas translated it in 1996. Published as The Year of the Hare, the story concerns a journalist, Vatanen, who reconsiders his middle-class life (and wife) in Helsinki after accidentally hitting a hare with his car. Abandoning civilization to care for the wounded animal, Vatanen rediscovers his character during his adventures in the wilderness. "While the hare wavers between companion, pet and symbol, the pair's innocent retreat is complicated at every turn," explained a Publishers Weekly contributor. The plot sets the stage for a satiric examination of modern values by presenting a man who eschews material comfort for the opportunity to live in a natural state.

World Literature Today writer Kathleen Dana called Lomas's translation "appropriately comic, although highly individualistic. For instance, he keeps some Finnish place names, but rechristens others; he keeps the Finnish landscape but uses British currencies." These idiosyncrasies notwithstanding, concluded Dana, Lomas's work on Hare "is as fluent and as highly readable as Paasilinna's delightful original version."

"The art of poetry should first please and perhaps exalt the reader but then be a civilizing force by reminding people of their feelings, their imperfections, their humanity, their need to love and be loved, and their right to be themselves," Lomas told Carew. "Nevertheless, it's impossible to state one's aims shortly without sounding pretentious."



Contemporary Poets, St. James Press (Detroit, MI), 1996.


Booklist, September 1, 1995, p. 42.

British Book News, July, 1981, review of Public Footpath, p. 436; June, 1982, review of Public Footpath, p. 340; December, 1984, review of Fire in the Garden, p. 755; June, 1986, review of Letters in the Dark, p. 365.

Encounter, December, 1984, review of Fire in the Garden, p. 61.

Hudson Review, autumn, 1981, review of Public Footpath, p. 431; autumn, 1984, review of Fire in the Garden, p. 506; winter, 1987, Robert McDowell, review of Letters in the Dark, pp. 686-687; autumn, 1996, review of Selected Poems, p. 513.

Listener, June 6, 1985, review of Fire in the Garden, p. 31.

Observer, June 28, 1981, review of Public Footpath, p. 33; August 19, 1984, review of Fire in the Garden, p. 19; June 1, 1986, review of Letters in the Dark, p. 22; November 30, 1986, review of Letters in the Dark, p. 21.

Publishers Weekly, July 10, 1995, review of The Year of the Hare, p. 44.

School Librarian, August, 1991, review of Contemporary Finnish Poetry, p. 112.

Stand, winter, 1993, review of Trouble, p. 77.

Sunday Telegraph, November 8, 1992, Vernon Scannell, review of Trouble.

Times Literary Supplement, May 1, 1981, John Mole, review of Public Footpath, p. 496; December 4, 1981, Ann Born, review of Territorial Song: Contemporary Writing from Finland, p. 1414; November 30, 1984, review of Fire in the Garden, p. 1393; October 3, 1986, Gavel Lindop, review of Letters in the Dark, p. 1118.

World Literature Today, spring, 1982, review of Territorial Song, p. 375; winter, 1993, Philip Binham, review of Contemporary Finnish Poetry, p. 212; spring, 1996, Kathleen Dana, review of The Year of the Hare, p. 437.

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