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Gavin Bantock

  • About
  • Biography
  • Awards
  • Gavin Bantock, born in England in 1939, wrote his long poem Christ (1965) while at New College, Oxford. He has lived in Japan, where he taught English and drama at Reitaku University. His books include A New Thing Breathing (1969), Anhaga (Anglo-Saxon translations, 1972) , Eirenikon (1972), Dragons (1979), Just Think of It (2002) and SeaManShip (2003).

    Born 4th July, 1939 in Barnt Green, near Birmingham. He graduated from New College, Oxford in 1963. Moved to Japan in 1969, became a university professor, and has lived there ever since. He has published more than ten collections of verse and verse translations, as well as one novel, with another shortly to appear. Has written and directed numerous full-length and short English-language dramas in Japan, and directed nearly 200 stage productions in Japan, covering a very wide range from classical Greek tragedy, Marlowe, Molière, Chekhov, to Pinter and Beckett. In 2016, he directed his 38th Shakespeare play King John, and is probably the only foreigner to have directed all the plays of Shakespeare in English in Japan.

    As a poet, GB was Joint-Winner of the 1964 Richard Hillary Award (Oxford) for his epic poem Christ (Donald Parsons, 1966), which also won the Alice Hunt-Barlett (Poetry Society) Award in 1966. He won an Eric Gregory Award in 1969. Further prizes followed: Arvon Foundation International Poetry Competition (1998), Cardiff International Poetry Competition (1999), and several other minor awards. He was short-listed in the Strokestown International Poetry Competition in 2010.

    GB has published a number of both shorter and longer poems, notably Hiroshima (1966), Juggernaut (Anvil, 1968), A New Thing Breathing (including the long poem Person) (Anvil, 1969), Anhaga (Translations from Anglo-Saxon verse) (Anvil, 1972), Eirenikon (Anvil, 1972), Gleeman (1972), Isles (Excerpts from Christ) (1974), and Dragons (Anvil, 1980), Just Think of It (Anvil, 2002), Floating World (2002), SeaManShip (Anvil, 2003). His poems have appeared in The Spectator, the Poetry Review, Ambit, New Measure (Oxford), Second Aeon (Wales), Orbis (Yorkshire), The New Welsh Review,  Acumen and many other magazines.

    His poetry has appeared in several anthologies: 23 Modern British Poets (U.S.A., 1971), The Oxford Book of 20th Century English Verse (1973), The Faber Book of 20th Century Verse (1975), The P.E.N. Anthology of Poetry (1966-67), and in three Anvil anthologies, The Poetry of Chess (1981), The Spaces of Hope (1998) and The Sea! The Sea! (2005).

    GB's poetry deals mainly with the predicament of man in the modern world and reveals his deep love of and sympathy for his fellow men. His uses of language and sound are strikingly original, as is his imagery, which is often provocative and outlandish. The late British poet John Heath-Stubbs, referring to GB's Christ, wrote in the Poetry Review: "This is certainly the most important poem by a young poet to appear for a number of years.... He is, if you like, something of a barbarian, arrogant, a mad visionary. But these are qualities we can do with.... Above all, he writes like a dedicated poet. I cannot conceive that he will stop writing or grow tame." Another British poet, Kevin Crossley-Holland, wrote that GB "is not afraid to think big, to stick out his neck, and to write of man's fragile vanity." The late Sir Maurice Bowra wrote of him: "I am considerably impressed...he is undeniably a notable poet", and a review in Tribune states: "He communicates energy: his poems have compelling mythopoeic unity, yet they never seem to be ends-in-themselves." The late Nevill Coghill (then Editor of the Poetry Review) wrote of Bantock: "Big poems are rare; when a man is big enough to write one, we should be big enough to print it."

    GB's single strongest poetic inspiration, he says, is the sea; his poetry makes frequent use of sea images, and we can hear the sounds of surf and the cries of seagulls in some of his best writing. He greatly admires the work of such poets as early Ezra Pound, Dylan Thomas and Ted Hughes, as well as that of romantics such as Whitman, Poe, Keats and Shelley. He has also been strongly influenced by the bold colours, rhythms and emotions of Anglo-Saxon verse. Yet GB has a powerful, modern voice of his own.

    Having lived in Japan since 1969, he has absorbed much of the delicate flavour of oriental art. With his wife Kyoko, he has published translations of the best-selling poems and essays of the paraplegic poet and painter Tomihiro Hoshino—Journey of the Wind (1988) and Road of the Tinkling Bell (1990). These translations have been reprinted in Japan sixteen times so far. In September, 1994, GB read excerpts of Hoshino's work in the Carnegie Hall, New York. He attended the 16th World Congress of Poets in Maebashi, Japan, in August 1996, as a workshop speaker ("Poetry in the Hi-Tech Age") and as a reciter. He published a critical work—Pioneers of English Poetry (Kinseido, Tokyo) in 1980, and has also published some dozen books of essays on a wide variety of subjects (as university textbooks).

    GB has published a novel, The Old Woman of the Sea (Machinami Tsushinsha, Japan, 2011), a parody of Enid Blyton Third Form at St. Claire’s (Machinami Tsushinsha, 2011), and a comprehensive memoir of his home village Barnt Green in Worcestershire and his family in the 1950s, Hail, Salubrious Spot! (How’s Your Rupture?) (Machinami Tsushinsha, 2011). Three small volumes of poetry published by Brimstone Press, UK, appeared in 2015 – White, Sonnets to Ganymede, and Bagatelles.

    From 2013, GB spent three years thoroughly revising his prize-winning long poem Christ, (which is to be) published by Brimstone as Christos, The Lovesong of the Son of Man in 2016.
    Awards won by Gavin Bantock Short-listed, 1988 Arvon Foundation International Poetry Competition Winner, 1969 Eric Gregory Award Winner, 1966 Poetry Society's Award Winner, 1964 Richard Hillary Award
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