James Kirkup (born
April 23, 1918) is a prolific English poet, translatorand travel writer. He was brought up in South Shields, and educated at Durham University. He has written over 30 books, including autobiographies, novels and plays. He became a fellow of the Royal Society of Literaturein 1962.
From 1950 to 1952 he was the first Gregory Poetry Fellow at Leeds University, making him the first resident university poet in the UK. In 1952 he moved south to Gloucestershire and became visiting poet at Bath Academy of Art for the next three years. From Bath he taught in a London Grammar School before leaving England in 1956 to live and work in Europe, America and the Far East. He found the Japanese accepted him and appreciated his work, and so he settled there, lecturing in English Literature at several universities.
Blasphemy case and after
James Kirkup came to particular public attention in 1977, when the newspaper "
Gay News" published his poem " The Love that Dares to Speak its Name", which dealt with a centurion's love for Christ, and was sued for blasphemy by Mary Whitehouse, the then Secretary of the National Viewers and Listeners Association.
Since writing simple verses and rhymes from the age of six and the publication of his first poetry book, 'The Drowned Sailor' in 1947, Kirkup's published works now encompass several dozen collections of poetry, six volumes of autobiography, over a hundred monographs of original work and translations, not to mention thousands of shorter pieces in journals and periodicals. His skilled writing of haiku and tanka is acknowledged internationally.Many of his poems recall his childhood days in the North East, and are featured in such publications as 'The Sense of the Visit', 'To the Ancestral North', 'Throwback', and 'Shields Sketches'. His home town of South Shields now holds a growing collection of his works in the Central Library, and artefacts from his time in Japan are housed in the nearby Museum.His latest poetry will be published this summer (2008) by Red Squirrel Press and will be launched at a special event at Central Library in South Shields.
Amongst his honours, Kirkup held the Atlantic Award for Literature from the Rockefeller Foundation in 1950; he was elected the Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature in 1962; he won the Japan P.E.N. Club Prize for Poetry in 1965; and was awarded the Scott-Moncrieff Prize for Translation in 1992.
In 1997 he was presented with the Japan Festival Foundation Award [ [http://www.masthead.net.au/issue9/biogs9.html Biographies ] ] and invited by the Emperor and Empress to the Imperial New Year Poetry Reading at the Palace in Tokyo.
In the early 1990s Kirkup settled in
Andorra. He continues to work and until recently was a frequent contributor to the obituarysection of the British newspaper, " The Independent". He also has several virtual books published on the internet by Brindin Press.
* [http://uk.geocities.com/dorothy_fleet The James Kirkup Collection in South Shields Central Library and Museum]
* [http://news.bbc.co.uk/onthisday/hi/dates/stories/july/11/newsid_2499000/2499721.stm BBC News story on the Gay News blasphemy trial]
* [http://www.knittingcircle.org.uk/jameskirkup.html Article in Knittingcircle]
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