Gavin Ewart

Gavin Ewart most recent book of poems is The Collected Ewart 1933-1980. The poem by him in this issue was written on the day the winner of the Arvon Competition was announced.

Two Thomas Hardy Poems

Gavin Ewart, 26 September 1991

1. Marty South’s Letter to Edred Fitzpiers

(Thomas Hardy: The Woodlanders, end of Chapter XXXIV)

Deer Mister Fitzpiers

A’m writen to thee now to tell thee what may lie heavy on thy belly!

Yon hiair that Barber Percomb took that wer my hiair, by t’Holy Book, a zold it to’m – an’ all to deck proud Mistress Charmond’s hiead an’ neck!

Zo what thou...

Two Poems

Gavin Ewart, 23 May 1991

A Place in the Hierarchy

Anybody can easily see that Auden is cleverer than me, and likewise Professor Dodds or even Joseph Brods-                                       ky!

And the talents that the Fates...

Cat Poems

Gavin Ewart, 25 October 1990


Tattooed Thief Prowls Streets In Tony Neighbourhoods, Eludes Police for Years. American news item. All words in italics are quoted from this.

James, the yardman, was working out back,  Maude, the maid, was tossing a salad – what better beginning, if you’re having a crack   at writing a criminal ballad? And I do want to make it plain:Atlanta’s...

If you’re a man in a book by Beryl, believe me, you’re in very great peril! Unsure of purpose, weak and wobbly, or stern and strong, small bum, knees knobbly,

Accidental-On-Purpose Death before the end will stop your breath! You’ll find it’s a girl who’s the great Prime Mover when your Fate sucks you in like a ghastly Hoover.

Wolves are around in girl-sheep...

Poem: ‘Snooker Champion’

Gavin Ewart, 21 December 1989

Open your mouths! Dinna keep them shut like a row of clams! But use them for shouting and for downing wee drams! For Stephen Hendry, the Pride of Scotland, has beaten that bounder, That horrible Thatcherite Sassenach wi’ a face like a flounder!

Two Poems

Gavin Ewart, 17 March 1988

Byron’s Problem

When they come up to you, as you’re sitting quietly, and lay their fat boobs on your knees, and look into your eyes with their own big eyes and wistfully caress your cheek and so, without speaking, say ‘Please!’ it’s a clear invitation to come out and play and you can’t just tell them to go away!

When the wine’s round and they press up...

Evening News, Edited, Printed and Published in Scotland’s Capital City, Saturday, 15 August 1987

There’s a wee Evil Spirit abroad in a wee West Lothian family, a wee Invisible Force has attacked, with a knife, a girl lodger – slashed the wee girl with a knife, causing terror and turmoil in Dedridge! Along with her three wee sons, Mrs Avril Perkins is frightened. Her lodger,...

Poem: ‘Tallness is all’

Gavin Ewart, 17 October 1985

Pope and Keats were nothings, only two feet high – all the enormous Sitwells were towering to the sky.

Edith once told Bottrall physical size was all – miniature masterpieces weren’t on, by anybody small!

All long, or little, poems by Thwaite or Taner Baybars are bound to be a waste of time and, you might say, lost labours.

No chance for midget madrigals – the Muse...

When I see yet another work of hagiography concerning Sir John Betjeman, it makes me want to vomit! Show me, I want to say, please, the ‘geography’ of the house!1 But Betjeman wasn’t nasty, in fact very far from it.

It’s probably the Murrays who are such penny-turners (Byron’s one was a Philistine). John’s an important asset, one of the few real genuine...

Those who said that they loved us are terribly dead                  or not quite right in the head or they went missing thirty years after the last passionate kissing,

gone, with no phone calls or letters; with other mates;            you could say they...

Poem: ‘The Mischievous Boy’

Gavin Ewart, 18 November 1982

Love jumped on us before we knew his name, twisted our arms at prep schools, hid up our mothers’ skirts, oh! we were bent by knitted bosoms and that ladylike scent!

Love was a tyrant in his belted shorts, was good at games and comely just as the Bible said, behind the scrum a hardworked angel – no wicked words like bum.

Love came, not physical in any way; demanding friendship...

My old eyes tell me they are offering claret!What a most marvellous, unheard-of prize!Alas! dementia sapiens non caret*Poetic fame in such a Bacchic guise!Much money too! A poet in a garretno longer needs to starve, as cold he lies!Who wins? A Browning? Or a hot Miss Barrett?… that is beyond our wildest wild surmise!

£5,000! For sure, the lucky winnerwill be, untaxed, the Poet Of...

Poem: ‘A Victorian Cemetery’

Gavin Ewart, 17 December 1981

Bony skeletons in coffinwood, some of them bad, some of them good, all of them silent, stretched out straight, hope to get in at Heaven’s Gate.

Some had breasts to drive men wild or (more important) to feed a child; some had redhead cocks, to crow; now they lie there, row by row.

Everything soft has drained away, hard and simple till Judgment Day they lie still in their mouldered...

Three Poems

Gavin Ewart, 3 September 1981

Black Spring

Spring brings the joys of love to me and you. It stimulates the young child-murderer too.

Bad News in April 1981

Robert Garioch, the best poet in Scotland, is dead. The wit stops coming from that remarkable singing head.

A Rough Ballad of Old Chicago

Hemingway was a Wound-and-the-Bow writer but his mother thought he was a low writer and all that Oak Park puritan set didn’t...

Two Poems

Gavin Ewart, 21 May 1981

Violent Passions

The mouth can be quite nasty in a bite The lover’s pinch can be malicious too Legs kick, as well as tangle, in a bed

Words can be harsh and not console or rhyme Fighting is also love’s especial food Hands can enlace with hands or round a neck

The tools that pierce can be unyielding steel Attractive nails can score, like claws, the face Fingers can spread on...

Poem: ‘Dickens and I*’

Gavin Ewart, 20 November 1980

After a reading in a Derbyshire school, the fifteens and the sixteen-year-olds are clustering round me (no fool like an old fool), the clevers, the athletics, the shys, the bolds, for me to sign their poem-photostats; I write ‘Best wishes to Clare; John; Clive; Maureen.’ These are their souvenirs – Bard Rock, Hippocrene beer mats – xeroxed to help them sort out what I...

Why on earth ever did (I wonder) Shaw and Wells so much like Grayshott, and Conan Doyle, at Hindhead, build ‘Undershaw’ – when they might have got away, shot of all those dark and dismal conifers, those larches, spruces, pines, fishboney firs,

and gone on down Southwards, right on to the clear sea and sun of Sussex and the traditional naughtiness of Brighton, architecture...


The Objecting Ewart

4 September 1980

SIR: I was very pleased to be so favourably commented on by John Bayley in his review of The Collected Ewart 1933-1980 (LRB, 4 September). If I now write to correct one or two misconceptions, this is because I honour his piece as criticism and not just off-the-cuff reviewing. First, in the poem ‘It’s hard to dislike Ewart’ the speaker is the reviewer, not myself. He acts and speaks...

Beach Poets

Blake Morrison, 16 September 1982

A more sophisticated version of Larkin’s cry ‘Foreign poetry? No!’ is the belief that the poetry of certain parts of the world (Eastern Europe, for example) is intrinsically...

Read More

Poetry and Soda

Barbara Everett, 5 February 1981

Anthologies are coming from the publishers with the speed of Verey lights from a sinking ship. What could he better: six hundred pages of other men’s flowers, offering relief from what...

Read More

Inside Out

John Bayley, 4 September 1980

Towards the end of Gavin Ewart’s delightful and comfortable volume there is a poem called ‘It’s hard to dislike Ewart’. Too true, as Clive James or Peter Porter might say,...

Read More

Read anywhere with the London Review of Books app, available now from the App Store for Apple devices, Google Play for Android devices and Amazon for your Kindle Fire.

Sign up to our newsletter

For highlights from the latest issue, our archive and the blog, as well as news, events and exclusive promotions.

Newsletter Preferences