David Gascoyne (David Emery Gascoyne) Biography
(1916–2001), (David Emery Gascoyne), Roman Balcony, Opening Day, surrealistes, A Short Survey of Surrealism
British poet, born in Harrow, Middlesex, educated at Salisbury Cathedral Choir School and Regent Street Polytechnic. His first collection of poetry, Roman Balcony (1932), appeared when he was 16. Advance royalties on his novel Opening Day (1933) enabled him to travel to Paris in 1933, where the work of the surrealistes made a profound impression upon him. His A Short Survey of Surrealism (1935), with his translations of Dali's Conquest of the Irrational (1935) and Breton's What Is Surrealism? (1936), established him as the leading British spokesman for the movement. His disjunctive and often unsettlingly sinister surrealist prose poems were collected in Man's Life Is This Meat (1936). His subsequent volume, Poems 1937–1942 (1943), used richly musical adaptations of conventional verse forms to achieve its striking fusions of vividly observed imagery and visionary intuitions. The collection contains what is considered to be Gascoyne's finest work, much of it forming a powerfully imaginative response to the devastation of warfare. From 1947 until 1964 he lived mainly in France, a period during which his output as a poet underwent a drastic decline. His other works include Night Thoughts (1956), a ‘radiophonic poem’ commissioned by the BBC, and The Sun at Midnight: Poems and Aphorisms (1970). Collected Poems, with Gascoyne's autobiographical introduction, appeared in 1988. Paris Journal 1937–1939 (1978) and Journal 1936–1937 (1980), jointly published as The Collected Journals in 1990, form valuable accounts of his involvement in the political and artistic movements of the late 1930s. Collected Verse Translations, edited by R. Skelton and A. Clodd, appeared in 1970.