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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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
Hob (and Other Poems)
Poetry without Tears
The River and the Downs: Kent’s Unsung Corner
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:
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.’
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)