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James Kirkup Biography

(1923– ), A Correct Compassion, Descent into the Cave, The Bewick Bestiary, Scenes from Sesshu

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British poet, playwright, and travel writer, born in South Shields, County Durham, educated at Durham University. He has held posts at universities in Britain, Europe, America, and Japan. He has also worked extensively as a translator. Among his earlier collections of poetry is A Correct Compassion (1952), the title poem of which is perhaps his finest single work, developing its rhymed narrative of cardiovascular surgery with a remarkable combination of documentary objectivity and understated dramatic tension. His many subsequent publications as a poet include Descent into the Cave (1957), The Bewick Bestiary (1971), Scenes from Sesshu (1978), The Guitar Player of Zuiganji (1985), and Throwback: Poems Towards an Autobiography (1992). In 1977 Kirkup's poem ‘The Love that Dares To Speak Its Name’, which presents Christ as the object of homosexual love, resulted in a successful prosecution for blasphemous libel. Among his numerous plays are An Actor's Revenge (1979) and The Damask Drum (1984). He has produced several volumes of autobiography, including The Only Child (1957), Sorrows, Passions, and Alarms (1959), I, of All People (1988), A Poet Could Not But Be Gay (1991), and Me All Over: Memoirs of a Misfit (1993). His many travel books include These Horned Islands (1962), on his early experiences of Japan, Filipinescas (1968), and Hong Kong and Macao (1970).

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