Tom Raworth (Thomas Moore Raworth) (born 1938) is a London-born poet and visual artist who has published over 40 books of poetry and prose since 1966. Raworth is a key figure in the British Poetry Revival. He lives in Cambridge, England.
Early Life and Work
Raworth was born and grew up in London. He left school at the age of 16 and worked at a variety of jobs. In the early 1960s he started a magazine called Outburst in which he published a number of British and American poets including Ed Dorn and LeRoi Jones. He also founded Matrix Press at this time, publishing small books by Dorn, David Ball, Piero Heliczer and others.
In 1965,while working as an operator at the international telephone exchange, Raworth and Barry Hall set up Goliard Press, which published, amongst others, Charles Olson's first British collection. These ventures into publishing made a major contribution to British interest to the new American poetry of the 1960s.
Development as a Poet
His first book, The Relation Ship (1966) won the Alice Hunt Bartlett Prize. Donald Davie admired the book and encouraged Raworth to resume his formal education. Raworth studied Spanish for a year and then translated the work of Vincente Huidobro and other Latin American poets for his M.A..
In the 1970s, he worked in the United States and Mexico, teaching in a number of universities. After six years abroad he returned with his family to England in 1977 to take up the post of resident poet in King's College, Cambridge for a year. He continues to live in that city.
His early poetry showed the influences of the Black Mountain and New York School poets, particularly Robert Creeley and John Ashbery together with strands from European poetry (Apollinaire), Dadaism and Surrealism. His 1974 book Ace saw Raworth move to a more disjunctive style, built from short, unpunctuated lines that entice the reader into following multiple syntactic possibilities, as they knit together everything from observations of the everyday to self-reflexive commentary on the acts of thinking and writing, to affectionate lifts from pulp fiction and film noir, to political satire. A series of long poems in this mode followed--after Ace came Writing (composed 1975-77; published 1982), Catacoustics (composed 1978-81; published 1991) and West Wind (composed 1982-83; published 1984). Subsequent projects have extended this mode into a kaleidoscopic sequence of 14-line poems (not exactly "sonnets") that extended through "Sentenced to Death" (in Visible Shivers, 1987), Eternal Sections (1993) and Survival (1994). Later collections include Clean & Well Lit (1996) and Meadow (1999). Raworth's 650-page Collected Poems was published in 2003, though a number of major works remain uncollected, including his uncategorizable prose-work A Serial Biography (1969), a uniquely vertiginous patchwork of autobiography and fiction.
Performance and Collaboration
Raworth gives regular readings of his work in Europe and the U.S.A. and has made a number of recordings. His readings are noted for his speed of delivery. He has long been interested in collaborative work and has created performance events and texts in collaboration with musicians such as Steve Lacy, JoŽlle Lťandre, Giancarlo Locatelli and Steve Nelson-Raney; other poets, including Jim Koller, Anselm Hollo, Gregory Corso and Franco Beltrametti; and painters including Joe Brainard, Jim Dine, Giovanni D'Agostino and MicaŽla Henich. In 1991, he was the first European writer in 30 years to be invited to teach at the University of Cape Town. He has also worked with his wife, Val Raworth.
His visual art consists mainly of drawings, collage and found art and has been exhibited in Italy, France, South Africa and the United States.
Raworth and Ireland
Raworth has strong Irish connections. His mother's family lived in the same house in Dublin as Sean O'Casey at the time that the playwright was working on Juno and the Paycock. In 1990, he took out an Irish passport.
- Raworth at EPC (includes extensive bibliography) (http://wings.buffalo.edu/epc/authors/raworth/)
- Tom Raworth's Home Page (http://tomraworth.com/)