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James Fenton (James Martin Fenton) Biography

(1949– ), (James Martin Fenton), New Statesman, All the Wrong Places, The Times, Independent, Our Western Furniture

Literature Reference: American Literature, English Literature, Classics & Modern FictionEncyclopedia of Literature: Sebastian Faulks Biography to Football Milieu

British poet, born in Lincoln, educated at Magdalen College, Oxford. He worked at the New Statesman from 1971 to 1973, when began two years as a freelance correspondent in Indo-China; All the Wrong Places (1988) is a collection of his despatches from Cambodia during a time of great political and military turbulence. After a period as chief literary critic for The Times he returned to the Far East in 1986 as a correspondent for the Independent. As a poet, Fenton has gained a high reputation for the quality and range of his comparatively slender output; two pamphlets, Our Western Furniture (1968) and Put Thou Thy Tears into My Bottle (1969), were followed in 1972 by Terminal Moraine, a collection widely acclaimed for its originality of tone and conception. Several subsequent pamphlets include A Vacant Possession (1978), which contains numerous intensely atmospheric poems exemplifying his use of fictive modes. Among his other publications are Dead Soldiers (1981) and A German Requiem (1982), to which themes and narratives from his work as a foreign correspondent are central. The Memory of War and Children in Exile: Poems 1968–1983 (1983) demonstrates the scope of his writing, which extends from the open compassion of the treatment of Cambodian refugees in ‘Children in Exile’ to the surreally disquieting humour of ‘The Skip’. His talent for comic verse is displayed in Partingtime Hall (with John Fuller, 1987), which is notable for its unusual blend of scurrility and erudition.

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