James Fenton

James Fenton
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James Martin Fenton (born 25 April 1949, Lincoln) is an English poet, journalist and literary critic. He is a former Oxford Professor of Poetry.

Born in Lincoln, Fenton grew up in Lincolnshire and Staffordshire, the son of Canon John Fenton, a noted biblical scholar. He was educated at the Durham Choristers School, Repton and Magdalen College, Oxford. He graduated with a B.A. in 1970.

Fenton acquired at school an enthusiasm for the work of W.H. Auden. At Oxford John Fuller, who happened to be writing A Reader's Guide to W.H. Auden at the time, further encouraged that enthusiasm. Auden became possibly the greatest single influence on Fenton's own work.

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  • ''The lullaby is the spell whereby the mother attempts to transform herself back from an ogre to a saint.''
    James Fenton (b. 1949), British poet, critic. "Ars Poetica," no. 7, Independent on Sunday (London, March 11, 1990).
  • ''The writing of a poem is like a child throwing stones into a mineshaft. You compose first, then you listen for the reverberation.''
    James Fenton (b. 1949), British poet, critic. Ars Poetica, no. 22, Independent on Sunday (London, June 24, 1990).
  • ''Imitation, if it is not forgery, is a fine thing. It stems from a generous impulse, and a realistic sense of what can and cannot be done.''
    James Fenton (b. 1949), British poet, critic. "Ars Poetica," no. 47, Independent on Sunday (London, Dec. 16, 1990).
  • ''One does not become a guru by accident.''
    James Fenton (b. 1949), British poet, critic. Times (London, Aug. 9, 1984). Referring to playwright Samuel Beckett.
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