Born in the English Midlands into a lower-class family, Alfred Charles Tomlinson was restless to escape the confinements of a mining community. The political conservatism of his father, Alfred Tomlinson, an estate agent’s clerk, had a strong influence on the development of young Tomlinson’s sensibility. Tomlinson attended Queen’s College, University of Cambridge, from 1945 to 1948; while there he studied under Donald Davie, who became a lifelong friend and colleague. After receiving his degree, Tomlinson was married to Brenda Raybould. They moved to London, where Tomlinson taught in an elementary school and worked at his painting. In 1951, he published his first collection of poems, Relations and Contraries.
In 1951-1952, he traveled in Italy, where he worked briefly as private secretary to Percy Lubbock. While in Italy, he gradually abandoned his painting in favor of composing poems. After returning to London, he earned a master’s degree from London University in 1954. In 1956, he took a position as lecturer in English poetry at the University of Bristol, where he later became a reader and then professor.
Tomlinson’s next volume of poetry, Seeing Is Believing, attracted the attention of several American critics. In 1959, he fulfilled a long-held wish to meet William Carlos Williams, whom he visited in Rutherford, New Jersey. On the same trip to the United States, made possible by a fellowship, he also visited Yvor Winters in California. Before returning home, he visited Marianne Moore in Brooklyn, New York, and returned for a second visit with Williams in New Jersey.
With Henry Gifford, he published the first of several joint projects of translation,...
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