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C. H. Sisson (Charles Hubert Sisson) Biography

(1914– ), (Charles Hubert Sisson), PN Review, The Spirit of British Administration, The London Zoo, Numbers

British poet and translator, born in Bristol, where he read Philosophy and English at the University. He began his career in the Civil Service in 1936 and retired as Assistant Under-Secretary of State in 1973. He co-edited PN Review from 1976 to 1983. He first gained wide notice with The Spirit of British Administration (1959), a study of administrative and constitutional issues. The title poem of The London Zoo (1961), his first substantial collection of poetry, forms an acerbic satire on the habits and attitudes of middle-class commuters. Among his subsequent volumes are Numbers (1965), In the Trojan Ditch: Collected Poems and Selected Translations (1974), Exactions (1980), God Bless Karl Marx! (1987), and Antidotes (1991); Collected Poems 19431983 was published in 1984. Much of his earlier poetry exhibited a bleak philosophical outlook, giving rise to many laconically epigrammatic pieces and longer poems of a sombrely lyrical tone. From the mid-1970s onward his verse displays an increasing preoccupation with religious and contemplative themes, which are dealt with in a style of trenchant plainness. Notable among his translations are versions of Dante's Divine Comedy (1980) and Virgil's Aeneid (1986). He has also produced two novels, An Asiatic Romance (1953) and the highly acclaimed Christopher Homm (1965). His several collections of essays, noted for their outspokenness against poetic practices he opposes, include The Avoidance of Literature (1978) and In Two Minds (1990). A ‘partial autobiography’ entitled On the Look Out appeared in 1989.

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Literature Reference: American Literature, English Literature, Classics & Modern FictionEncyclopedia of Literature: Lemn Sissay Biography to Southwold Suffolk