Roy Fisher on The Verb in 2010

Roy Fisher on The Verb in 2010


As a tribute to Roy Fisher, who died in 2017, BBC Radio 3's The Verb posted an extract from their 80th birthday interview with Roy recorded at his home in the Peak District in 2010.

The fifteen-minute extract is available via The Verb's webpages here, where host Ian McMillan pays tribute to Roy Fisher.

'I was proud to be able to choose his Selected Poems, The Long and the Short of It, published by Bloodaxe, as my book on Desert Island Discs, and I know that I'l be returning to that book over and over again in the next few weeks and months, now that one of the most important inhabitants of the island has gone.' - Ian McMillan

Read the full tribute and listen to the extract from The Verb's Roy Fisher special here.

In 2022 Bloodaxe published a recently-discovered prose work by Roy Fisher, The Citizen and the making of 'City', edited by Peter Robinson.


Bloodaxe's tribute to Roy Fisher from March 2017 is here:

Roy Fisher published over 30 poetry books, including four with Bloodaxe since 1996, most notably The Long and the Short of It: Poems 1955-2010, which Ian McMillan chose on Desert Island Discs, praising Fisher as ‘Britain’s greatest living poet'. This retrospective covers the entire range of Fisher’s work, from its fraught beginnings in the 1950s through major texts of the 1960s and 1970s such as City, The Ship’s Orchestra and ‘Wonders of Obligation’, to A Furnace, his 1980s masterpiece, and and then the later work set in the scarred and beautiful North Midlands landscape where he lived for over 30 years, notably the Costa Poetry Award-shortlisted Standard Midland (2010), which was added to the 2012 expanded edition of The Long and the Short of It. His final collection, Slakki: New & Neglected Poems, edited by Peter Robinson, was launched at a celebratory event in October 2016 in Birmingham Cathedral, which Roy was unable to attend, due to frail health.

Reviewing Fisher’s poetry in The Guardian, Sean O’Brien wrote: 'Fisher stands outside, or alongside, whatever else is happening, an English late modernist whose experiments tend to come off. He is a poet of the city – his native Birmingham, which he describes as "what I think with". He is a redeemer of the ordinary, often a great artist of the visible… His range is large: he suits both extreme brevity and book-length exploration; his seeming improvisations have a way of turning into architecture. The best place to start is The Long and the Short of It. It might look and sound like nothing on earth at first, but then it becomes indispensable.'

Fisher was the subject of numerous critical essays and several studies, including The Thing About Roy Fisher: Critical Essays on the Poetry of Roy Fisher, edited by Peter Robinson and John Kerrigan (Liverpool University Press, 2000), and of The Unofficial Roy Fisher, edited by Peter Robinson (Shearsman Books, 2010). His first US Selected Poems, edited by August Kleinzahler, was published by Flood Editions in 2011.

Born in Handsworth, Birmingham, he became interested in jazz as a teenager, playing with local bands, and was especially influenced by Chicago musicians such as Bud Freeman, Pee Wee Russell, and the pianist Joe Sullivan, whom he celebrated in one of his best-known poems, ‘The Thing About Joe Sullivan’. For much of his life he combined music and poetry with teaching. His music features in Tom Pickard’s film profile, Birmingham’s What I Think With (Pallion Productions, 1991).

After studying English at Birmingham University, Fisher taught in schools and colleges, and went on to lecture in American Studies at Keele University from 1971 until his retirement in 1982.

[03 August 2017]

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