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ISBN 978-0-9573266-6-8
First published September 2013; 166 pp paperback with endpapers; 198 x 129 mm
click here to read a pdf excerpt.
Fergus Allen was born in 1921; his father was Irish, his mother English. After attending Quaker schools in Ireland and graduating from Trinity College, Dublin, he moved to England during the Second World War. He ended his professional career as First Civil Service Commissioner. In 2000 he was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature.

Mary Allen has spent her career working in the arts and in the 1990s became Secretary General of the Arts Council of England; she has since held a number of board positions in the arts world.

Christopher Reid was poetry editor at Faber & Faber from 1991 to 1999, during which time he published Fergus Allen’s first three books. In 2009 CBe published his The Song of Lunch, which was filmed by the BBC the following year and is now published by Faber. 

Fergus Allen  New & Selected Poems

Selected by Mary Allen
Foreword by Christopher Reid

     No time is allowed for practice or rehearsal.
     There are no retakes and there isn’t a prompter.
     There’s only moving water, dimpled by turbulence -
     And no clambering out on to the bank
     To think things over, because there is no bank.

               ‘To Be Read Before Being Born’

Fergus Allen published his first collection with Faber and Faber at the age of 72. Driven by ‘a remarkable energy’ (Times Literary Supplement), he has published four further collections over two decades, two with Faber and one each with Dedalus Press and CB editions. His poetry has been described by William Boyd as ‘limpid, very subtle and marvellously wise’.

Introducing the present selection, made by the poet’s elder daughter and including previously unpublished poems, Christopher Reid writes: ‘It summarises a body of work which is possibly unique in its late timing, but remarkable for much more than that. I hope it will help to give Fergus Allen the prominence he deserves.’

‘The pleasure that Fergus Allen takes in the “superior amusement” of making poems is evident throughout this handsome volume ... Allen has learnt his trade well enough to shift from the playful to the erudite, from the grand style to the plain, without any loss of authority. The number of good opening lines alone is enviable: “The purpose of nettles is to make more nettles”, “Annie’s pubic hair was beyond a joke”, “Dark roles, my agent says they’re me”, “A solo glutton or wolverine”, “After the earthquake we decided to redecorate Hell”. The poems introduced by such lines are witty, humane, erotic, worldly-wise, sardonic, amiable, and overflowing with a true poet’s delight in language.’
     – John Greening,
Times Literary Supplement

‘Fergus Allen’s New & Selected Poems contains [selections from] his first collection, published at seventy-two, four collections from the nexty twenty years, and twelve new poems. I had to retrieve my copy from a family member. This poetry sceptic found Allen a fascinating poet, remarkable for his range of experience, his flashing humour, and his wild, unsettling imagination. I entirely agree ... One of Allen’s most recent – and bitter – aphorisms reads: “The wages of insolvency are pain.” But the wages of experience may be wisdom. Fergus Allen’s poetry, with its wit and wealth of subject matter, can still compel a younger generation, almost exiled from poetry.’
     – Alison Brackenbury, Poetry London

Fergus Allen’s previous book from CBe, Before Troy, is also available.