Michael Baldwin, poet, novelist, essayist and short story writer, was born on May 1st, 1930) in Gravesend, Kent. He grew up in Gravesend and Meopham, and was educated in the local Grammar school and then Oxford, followed by service in the Coast Artillery Regiment of the Thames and Medway estuary. Many of his published stories and poems are based in the Medway area of Kent.
Before becoming a full-time writer he worked as a teacher, university lecturer and broadcaster. He has written for radio, stage and film; and his Thames TV series Writer’s Workshop won a Rediffusion Prize as well as awards at many international festivals. A Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature and former chairman of the Arvon Foundation at Lumb Bank, he gained a Cholmondeley Award for his volume of poetry King Horn, and a Japan award for his work in documentary television.
He has judged national and international writing competitions and was for many years a judge of the Daily Mirror/W H Smith Young Writers Competition. He has taught creative writing at the Arvon Foundation, Fen Farm, Las Cabanes, the University of North Carolina, and at Skyros. He was Head of English and Drama at Whitelands College, Putney, and a Principal Lecturer at the Roehampton Institute.
Michael Baldwin is the author of twelve novels, including: There’s a War On, Miraclejack, The Rape of Oc, Dark Lady and The First Mrs Wordsworth. His volumes of autobiography include Grandad with Snails and In Step with a Goat. He is also the author of several short story collections, a number of non-fiction works, and several volumes of prize-winning poetry, including Buried God, and Death on a Live Wire.
In order to give an indication of the power of Michael Baldwin’s poetry, here is Death on a Live Wire:
Treading a field I saw afar
A laughing fellow climbing the cage
That held the grinning tensions of wire,
Alone, and no girl gave him courage.
Up he climbed on the diamond struts,
Diamond cut diamond, till he stood
With the insulators brooding like owls
And all their live wisdom, if he would.
I called to him climbing and asked him to say
What thrust him into the singeing sky:
The one word he told me the wind took away,
So I shouted again, but the wind passed me by
And the gust of his answer tore at his coat
And stuck him stark on the lightning’s bough;
Humanity screeched in his manacled throat
And he cracked with flame like a figure of straw.
Turning, burning, he dangled black,
A hot sun swallowing at his fork
And shaking embers out of his back,
Planting his shadow of fear in the chalk.
O then he danced an incredible dance
With soot in his sockets, hanging at heels;
Uprooted mandrakes screamed in his loins,
His legs thrashed and lashed like electric eels;
For now he embraced the talent of iron,
The white-hot ore that comes from the hill,
The Word out of which the electrons run,
The snake in the rod and the miracle;
And as he embraced it the girders turned black,
Fused metal wept and great tears ran down
Till his fingers like snails at last came unstuck
And he fell through the cage of the sun.
© Michael Baldwin (1962)
A World of Men
A Mouthful of Gold
The Great Cham
There’s a War On
The Rape of Oc
The First Mrs Wordsworth
Sebastian and Other Voices
Underneath and Other Situations
Voyage from Spring
Death on a Live Wire
How Chas Egget Lost His Way in a Creation Myth
The Way to Write Poetry
The Way to Write Short Stories
Poetry without Tears
The River and the Downs: Kent’s Unsung Corner
Grandad with Snails
In Step with a Goat
Michael Baldwin is a gifted writer of poetry, novels, short stories and non-fiction. If you can find any of his books, read them. He is worth reading.
The final words are from Michael Baldwin:
‘In the past reviewers have found my work violent. All I can say is that it must be. The world is.’ (Michael Baldwin – December 1962)