Michael Baldwin (1930-2014)


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Michael Baldwin, poet, novelist, essayist and short story writer, was born on May 1st, 1930 in Gravesend, Kent. He died on February 3rd, 2014.

Here is the Guardian’s obitituary:


And here is an essay on Ted Hughes, written by Michael Baldwin:


And here is a letter written by one of his former students:


And here’s Anthony Wilson’s appreciation of his book, The Way to Write Poetry:


Michael Baldwin 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.

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Before becoming a full-time writer, Michael Baldwin 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. His verse play, All American Bust was performed at the Royal Court Theatre.

A Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature and former chairman of the Arvon Foundation at Lumb Bank, Michael Baldwin gained a Japan award for his work in documentary television, and a Cholmondeley Award for his volume of poetry King Horn, a collection written by Michael Baldwin during the years he lived in the south of France. 


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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.

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Michael Baldwin 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, Exit Wounds, Holofernes, Dark Lady and The First Mrs Wordsworth.

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His volumes of autobiography include Grandad with Snails and In Step with a Goat.

Michael Baldwin 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, Hob and Other Poems, King Horn 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

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    A Mouthful of Gold




    The Great Cham

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    There’s a War On

    Exit Wounds


    The Cellar

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    The Gamecock

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    The Rape of OC

    The First Mrs Wordsworth

    Dark Lady

Short Stories:

    Sebastian and Other Voices

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    Underneath and Other Situations

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    Silent Mirror

    Voyage from Spring

    Death on a Live Wire

    How Chas Egget Lost His Way in a Creation Myth

    Buried God

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    Hob (and Other Poems)

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    King Horn

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    Poetry without Tears

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    The River and the Downs: Kent’s Unsung Corner

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    Writing in Kent since 1900 (1986 Kent Literature Festival Brochure)


    The Way to Write Poetry

    The Way to Write Short Stories



    Grandad with Snails

    In Step with a Goat

Michael Baldwin is an incredibly gifted writer of poetry, novels, short stories and non-fiction.

Here is a short film of R J Dent’s collection of Michael Baldwin books:


Read any books by Michael Baldwin because he is worth reading.

Here is another powerful poem by Michael Baldwin. This one is called Social Study:

Social Study


While my mother ate her heart out

And my father chewed the chairs

My sister worked in a factory

Calmly degutting pears:



The green pears like spinach

And the yellow pears like sick

She gently disembowelled

With a deft little flick.



She never seemed to worry

Or share the family fears

But thoughts like bees were buzzing

Inside her golden ears:


She jilted a tin-carpenter

And then a labeller’s mate,

And finally she married

The man who nails the crate.



She had two lovely children

Called Dorothy and Clem —

They’re hanging her tomorrow

For calmly degutting them.


© Michael Baldwin (1962)


Note from R J Dent: ‘Here’s the complete poem Social Study copied from Here Today, the anthology edited by Ted Hughes, which is the only collection I can find this particular poem in. I’ve transcribed it exactly, taking care over every detail, including the punctuation. The above is exactly as MB wrote it. I’ve included it here as many people have searched for Social Study and have been unable to find it. Along with Death on a Live Wire, Social Study is regarded by many as one of Michael Baldwin’s finest poems.’

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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)




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22 Responses to “Michael Baldwin (1930-2014)”

  1. Gavin Maclennan Says:

    I wish to contact Michael Baldwin about his book ‘The River and the Downs – Kent’s Unsung Corner’, as I grew up in the same part of the world more or less at the same time as he did. Does he have his own website, or should I write to him c/o the publishers?

    Thank you.

  2. R J Dent Says:

    Gavin, you’ll have to contact Michael via his publisher, as there seem to be no details of a Michael Baldwin website.

  3. Peter Medway Says:

    I enjoyed this page — thanks. I’ve just been looking at his Poems by Children, 1950-1961 – an anthology selected from diverse sources and a terrific collection with an excellent introduction.

    Is there a c.v. anywhere? i’d like know (1) what secondary school he attended and (2) whether he taught in schools.

    This is in connection with research I’m engaged in: Social Change and English: A Study of Three English Departments 1945-1965.

    Pete Medway

  4. John Adkins Says:

    He taught at St Clement Danes Grammar school around 1959. He was my form master and English teacher. He was someone who had outbursts of contagious laughter other times bursts of rage. He loved to get us to do class stories where he gave each of us in turn a short piece of a story which we had to expand on. The next class we would each tell our expanded piece to make a usually comical story – very enjoyable. Probably the only part of english lessons I enjoyed. His story ‘grandad with snails’ was serialised on one of the radio stations some time ago.

  5. Philip Chohan Says:

    I too was a pupil of his and would be interested in contacting him. I have tried looking up various publishers’ websites without success. Could you or anyone suggest which publisher might be the one to contact in order to reach Michael Baldwin.

  6. R J Dent Says:

    Michael Baldwin’s books on Amazon have a variety of publishers. Secker & Warburg and Little, Brown seems to recur. It might be worth emailing them to see if there’s a way to contact him. Sorry, but I’ve no information on Mr Baldwin – I just love his writing.

  7. Terry Simmonds Says:


    I remember studying a poem by Michael Baldwin in the mid 70’s called Social Study – with the great line in it: Calmly degutting pears.

    I have blogged about it in the past and it has suddenly had a rise in visitors – http://www.sim64.co.uk/uk/calmly-degutting-pears-a-social-study-by-michael-baldwin/

    I’m hoping the rise in interest is due to a new generation studying the poem and not for some other reason. Do you have any news?

    Also, I have never discovered which short book the poem was in. Can you help?

    Many thanks.

  8. R J Dent Says:


    The poem is called Social Study and it’s in Here Today, an anthology of modern poems edited and introduced by Ted Hughes:


    Here Today contains two other poems by Mr Baldwin: The Housewife and Death on a Live Wire.

    Hope that helps.

    R J Dent.


  9. Edward (Eddie) Joffe Says:

    I have lost contact with Mike Baldwin an old friend.
    Please could you kindly forward this to him…
    Thank you
    “Dear Mike – please contact me
    Edward (Eddie) Joffe. email “screenscene@hotmail.com”

  10. Keith Turner Says:

    Now an aged English teacher on the cusp of full retirement, I was drawn to the blog because of reconnecting with Baldwin’s excellent tense poem ‘Social Study’.

    I met Michael Baldwin on my PGCE course at Whitelands 1971-72. He was head of English and Drama. He was an amazingly larger-than-life Drama teacher, but I was too introspective then to fully appreciate him in that role. But every week he took an hour long session where he read poetry to us, covering the whole canon. He believed English teachers should love poetry. I remember his reading of WH Auden’s On the Death Of WB Yeats and being very, very moved. Although in drama he was melodramatic, in the poetry reading he wasn’t, prefering to let the power of the words ooze through. He was very memorable, warm man.

  11. Michael Baldwin Says:

    Dear R.J. Dent. Thank you for being my only publicist. I’d like to be in touch with you. Will you be kind enough to oblige before chaos is come again?
    Michael B.

  12. William Roberts Says:

    Not sure about the poetry, but really enjoyed Exit Wounds and Holofernes. Good thrillers. Does anyone else think that Mr Baldwin perhaps used to be a spy?

  13. Ross Ellice Says:

    I am very sad to report the death of Michael Baldwin on 3 February 2014. I had the honour and pleasure to be his friend and GP. He will be sadly missed

  14. R J Dent Says:

    I originally wrote this blog post to promote Michael Baldwin’s work and to bring his writing to a wider audience. This was because Mr Baldwin’s work had a profound effect on me and I wanted to share his excellent and powerful writing with others.

    Mr Baldwin thanked me for this, both publicly and privately.

    I was saddened to hear of Michael Baldwin’s death on 3rd February 2014.

    I shall continue to buy, promote and recommend his books to everyone, and I shall revise the content of this post from time to time, as I acquire new information.

    My condolences to Mr Baldwin’s family and to everyone who knew, was taught by, worked with, or was a friend of Michael Baldwin. We’ve lost an incredibly talented writer and teacher – and the world is a lesser place without him.

    R J Dent
    February 2014

  15. Terry Simmonds Says:

    Thank you for the information and sad news about Michael Baldwin.

  16. Adam Baldwin Says:

    Michael Baldwin Obituary – The Guardian 19th Feb.


    This is the obituary for my father that appeared in yesterday’s Guardian.

  17. Angela Deegan Says:

    I am so sorry to hear the sad news about Michael Baldwin. My sincere condolences to his family and friends. Michael was my English/Drama lecturer at Whitelands College in the early 1970s. I’ll never forget his reading of ‘Sir Gawain and the Green Knight’.
    Warmest Wishes,
    Angela Deegan

  18. Joel Baldwin Says:

    I greatly appreciate all of the wonderful comments posted on this website. As my father mentioned, with R J being his ‘only publicist’, this website is an incredibly valuable and memorable resource for like-minded authors and wordsmith aficionados.

    Once again, thank you for the hard work, and the ink-stained hands.

    Kind regards,

    Joel St John Baldwin.

  19. Bill Stevens Says:

    I taught at Whitelands College from 1966 to 1983 and was a member of Mike Baldwin’s English and Drama Department. We became friends as well as colleagues. He was a warm and generous man and would think nothing of taking a bunch of us out for a meal, which inevitably, and happily, was accompanied by several bottles of fine wine.
    Mike was a brilliant lecturer. I remember being present when he spoke for over an hour on Keats – he had a hundred or so students hanging on his every word. He was also a great raconteur.
    Sadly, in later years, I lost touch with him but memories live on. I feel privileged to have known him.

    Bill Stevens

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