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Elizabeth Jennings (1926 - 2001)

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  • Elizabeth Jennings was born in Boston, Lincolnshire in 1926, and lived most of her life in Oxford, where she moved in 1932. She was educated at Rye St Antony and Oxford High School before reading English at St Anne’s College, Oxford, where she began a B.Litt., but left to pursue a career in copy-editing in London. Returning to Oxford to take up a full-time post as a librarian at the city library, Jennings worked briefly at Chatto and Windus before becoming a full-time poet. Her second volume of poetry, A Way of Looking (1955), won the Somerset Maugham Award, which allowed her to travel to Rome, a city which had an immense impact on her poetry and Roman Catholic faith. While she suffered from physical and mental ill health from her early thirties, Jennings was a popular and widely read poet. She received the W.H. Smith award in 1987 for Collected Poems 1953–1985, and in 1992 was awarded a CBE. She died in Rosebank Care Home, Bampton, in 2001 and is buried in Wolvercote Cemetery, Oxford.
    Praise for Elizabeth Jennings (1926 - 2001) '[A] fine poet who ... manages to build the richest of poems from the barest of methods'
    The Times, December 14th 1975
    '[A] subtle and remarkable poet ... how accomplished she is'
    Alan Brownjohn, Encounter, Jan 1980
    'the outstanding thing about Jennings's poetry is its wisdom, hard-earned from grief and religious faith'
    Douglas Dunn, the Glasgow Herald, May 15th 1982
    'in an era dominated by vacuous verbiage, such poetry as Elizabeth Jennings continues to produce is indeed a triumphant anomaly.'
    David Gascoyne, The Tablet, Septemember 14th 1985
    'She is one of the few living poets one could not do without.'
    Peter Levi, The Spectator, October 19th 1985
    'she has shown herself to be a poet who really has a personal vision along with the gift for making it immediate and shareable'
    Kingsley Amis, The Spectator, December 6th 1986
    'Elizabeth Jennings is a highly original and sensitive poet, greatly undervalued'
    Robert Collie, The Gay Times, February 1989
    'in an agnostic age it is daring to write poems of religious rhapsody and more daring still to write as if the making of poems were a sacred activity.'
    James Aitchison, The Glasgow Herald, May 7th 1989
    'one of contemporary English poetry's major sublunary assets'
    Will Eaves, The Times Literary Supplement, January 15th 1993
    'Her poetry ... conveys a strength of feeling and sincerity that few contemporary poets can match.'
    Tom Velickovic, The Bookseller, September 16th 1994
    'a pleasure, as well as a poetic education, to read'
    Gwyneth Lewis, Poetry Review, Volume 84 no 4, Winter 1994
    'Elizabeth Jennings is a wonderful poet.'
    Hugh Bredin, Fortnight
    'she writes with a clear-eyed, simple tenderness which is never mawkish and reminds me of the great 17th-century poet, George Herbert'
    Vernon Scannell, the Sunday Telegraph
    'She's a major poet of our time'
    Germaine Greer
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