Paul Farley was born in Liverpool in 1965 and studied at the Chelsea School of Art. He has published four poetry books with Picador: The Boy from the Chemist is Here to See You (which was awarded the Somerset Maugham Award and a Forward Prize in 1998); The Ice Age (winner of the 2002 Whitbread Poetry Prize, and a Poetry Book Society Choice); Tramp in Flames (which was short-listed for the International Griffin Poetry Prize in 2007 and the T.S. Eliot Prize); and The Dark Film. In 2009 he received the E.M. Forster Award from the American Academy of Arts & Letters and a Travelling Scholarship from the Society of Authors. He has also written a book on Terence Davies's Distant Voices, Still Lives (British Film Institute, 2006) and in 2007 edited a selection of John Clare for Faber's Poet-to-Poet series.
His poems for radio are collected in Field Recordings: BBC Poems 1998-2008 (Donut Press, 2009) and a Selected Poems, The Atlantic Tunnel, was published in the US by Farrar, Straus & Giroux in 2010. He has also written more widely on the arts and literature for The Guardian, Art Review, Granta, Tate etc, the Independent, the Observer and Poetry Review and has been invited to judge the National Poetry Competition, the T.S Eliot Prize, the Bridport Prize, the Forward Prize and many others. His book, Edgelands, a non-fiction journey into England's overlooked wilderness (co-authored with Michael Symmons Roberts) was published by Jonathan Cape in 2011; it received the Royal Society of Literature's Jerwood Award, the Foyles Best Book of Ideas 2012 and was serialised as a BBC Radio 4 Book of the Week. His most recent book, The Dark Film (Picador, 2012) was a Poetry Book Society Choice and was shortlisted for the T.S Eliot Prize for Poetry 2012. In 2012 he was invited to become a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature.
Paul Farley’s work as a broadcaster includes many radio dramas, documentaries, literary adaptations and features, both as writer and presenter. He has written and presented many programmes for the BBC’s Classic Serial, Book of the Week, From Fact to Fiction, Between the Ears, Sunday Feature and The Afternoon Drama, as well as numerous standalone arts features and series. He is a frequent guest on magazine arts programmes such as Saturday Review, The Verb and Front Row, has been invited to appear on flagship series such as Start the Week, The Today Programme, A Good Read and With Great Pleasure, and he currently presents The Echo Chamber on BBC Radio 4, a series on contemporary poetry.
Interviews with Paul and further biographical materials can be found here at the Observer http://www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyle/2011/aug/07/paul-farley-once-upon-a-life ,the Guardian http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2010/apr/03/mark-haddon-paul-farley-conversation , the Economist http://moreintelligentlife.com/blog/ariel-ramchandani/qa-paul-farley-poet and Granta Magazine http://www.granta.com/Magazine/102/Netherley/Page-1
Convenor of Creative Writing MA (Campus); teaching on Part Two Creative Writing (CREW 303 and Poetry half unit CREW 205), Creative Writing MA and CW research.
1996 Observer/Arvon International Poetry Competition
1997 Geoffrey Dearmer Memorial Prize
1998 Forward Prize for Best First Collection
1999 Whitbread Poetry Award (shortlist)
1999 Somerset Maugham Award
1999 Sunday Times Young Writer of the Year
2000 Arts Council Writer’s Award
2002 Poetry Book Society Choice
2002 Whitbread Poetry Award
2003 T.S. Eliot Prize (shortlist)
2005 Forward Prize for Best Individual Poem
2007 Griffin International Poetry Prize
2007 T.S Eliot Prize (shortlist)
2009 Royal Society of Literature Jerwood Award for Non-Fiction
2009 E.M. Forster Award (American Academy of Arts & Letters)
2009 Travelling Scholarship of the Society of Authors
2010 Ted Hughes Award for New Work in Poetry (shortlist)
2012 Foyles Best Book of Ideas
2012 Ondaatje Prize for Non-Fiction (shortlist)
2012 T.S Eliot Prize for Poetry (shortlist)
2013 Cholmondeley Award for Poetry
CD: Paul Farley: reading from his poems (London: The Poetry Archive, 2007)
DVD: A Poet’s Guide to Britain (London: Digital Classics, 2010)
The Poetry Archive
Writers at Warwick
The Oxford Companion to Modern Poetry in English 2nd edition (Oxford: OUP, 2013)
The Oxford Companion to English Literature 7th edition (Oxford: OUP, 2009)
The Cambridge History of English Poetry (Cambridge: CUP, 2010)
Contemporary Writers (British Council’s online database of living writers) http://literature.britishcouncil.org/paul-farley
Poetry International Web www.poetryinternational.org
The Poetry Archive (the world’s premier online resource of recordings of poets reading their work: www.poetryarchive.org)
Selected Radio and Television
When Louis Met George (BBC Radio 4: Afternoon Play, 2003)
Civic (BBC Radio 3, 2003)
Homer in a Dudley Accent (BBC Radio 3: Twenty Minutes, 2004)
The English Civil War (BBC Radio 4: Afternoon Play, 2004)
Ports (BBC Radio 3: Between the Ears, 2005)
A Picture of Britain (BBC Radio 3: Night Waves, 2005)
The Big Hum (BBC Radio 3: Rebuilding the Ark, 2005)
The World in Your Ear (BBC Radio 4: The Friday Play, 2006)
Strange Meetings: Wilfred Owen (BBC Radio 3: Sunday Feature, 2006)
Wilfred Owen Week on 3 (BBC Radio 3: 2006)
I Wish I’d Looked After My Teeth (BBC Radio 4: Poetry Feature, 2006)
Auden: Six Unexpected Days (BBC Radio 3: Sunday Feature, 2007)
Hide (BBC Radio 4: Afternoon Play, 2007)
Why Birds Sing (BBC4 TV: 2007)
The Larkin Tapes (BBC Radio 4: The Archive Hour, 2008)
The Lament of Swordy Well (BBC Radio 4: Poetry Feature, 2009)
A Poet’s Guide to Britain (BBC4 TV: Episode 5: Louis MacNeice, 2009)
Children of the Whitsun Weddings (BBC Radio 3: Sunday Feature, 2009)
Rude Britannia (BBC4 TV: 2010)
Suckers! Poets and Parasites (BBC Radio 4: Poetry Feature, 2010)
London Nights (BBC Radio 4: Series, 2010)
We Are the Egg Men (BBC Radio 4: Factual, 2010)
The Electric Poly-Olbion (BBC Radio 4: Poetry Feature, 2010)
Frank O’Hara: Lunch Poems (BBC Radio 4: Poetry Feature, 2010)
Inside the Bonfire (BBC Radio 4: From Fact to Fiction, 2010)
The Switch-Off Personality (BBC Radio 4: Stories from the Bath Festival, 2011)
Edgelands (BBC Radio 4: Open Country, 2011)
Edgelands (BBC Radio 4: Book of the Week, 2011)
The Sleep Diaries (BBC Radio 4: five-part series, 2011)
Paying the Ferryman (BBC Radio 3: Twenty Minutes, 2011)
Earth Music (BBC Radio 3, The Essay/Earth Music Bristol season, 2011)
Dee (BBC Radio 3, Sunday Feature, 2012)
Night Visions (BBC Radio 4, 2012)
A Foreigner Everywhere: Elizabeth Bishop (BBC Radio 4, 2012)
The Person From Porlock (BBC Radio 4, 2012)
The Paperback Poets (BBC Radio 4: The Archive Hour, 2012)
Crossing the Bay (BBC Radio 4, 2013)
Baroque Spring (BBC Radio 3, 2013)
Techno Odyssey (BBC Radio 4: three-part series, 2013)
The Water Babies (BBC Radio 4: The Classic Serial, 2013)
A captivating book [The Dark Film] that sees this energetic poet putting his livewire imagination to ever more ambitious use.
Seeing things - in every sense - is Paul Farley's subject. Even darkness becomes visible if you stay with it, as the title poem [‘The Dark Film’] testifies. The most sympathetic thing about Farley's fine, hospitable, unpretentious poems is his belief in imagination as collaborative.
As a city-dweller it's difficult to think of police helicopters as romantic - not when you're all too used to the nocturnal din of rattling windows. That's from down here, though; up there it's a different story, and in the beguiling Night Visions, the poet Paul Farley took an after-dark trip in a police chopper. It conveyed beautifully his sense of wonder, and his out-of-placeness.
Independent on Sunday
Night Visions followed the Liverpudlian poet Paul Farley as he spent a night airborne in one of the Metropolitan Police’s surveillance helicopters. Mixing recordings from the flight, a running commentary from Farley and readings from a poem that he wrote about the experience, it was beautifully carried off: informative, transporting, deftly mixing precise detail with dream-like reflection.
The Daily Telegraph
This eye-opening and hugely enjoyable book [Edgelands]. The prose sparkles with arresting phrases and images, as one would expect from such well-established poets. An original, surprising and rather wonderful addition to our literature of place.
The Sunday Telegraph (Book of the Week)
A beautifully conceived work of exploration… Something of a masterpiece of its kind.
The Times (Book of the Week)
This witty, evocative book would never wish to claim official status. Farley and Symmons Roberts can scarcely be unaware of the contradiction involved in trying to give definition to places whose character is protean and stubbornly informal, but in their own uninvited way the authors are preserving edgelands from enlistment in the great unthinking project of public “culture” that so often fences and legitimizes and empties places of meaning.
Times Literary Supplement
A highly inventive survey of landfill sites, wastelands, sewage plants, retail parks, golf ranges and other features of ‘England’s true wilderness’. All this is done at a high level of linguistic resourcefulness, and the scope is impressive.
This exhilarating book represents an attempt by two poets to do for the neglected edgelands what Coleridge and Wordsworth once did for mountains and lakes. One of the principle tasks of any writer is to make us see the everyday anew. In this marvelously quirky, fascinatingly detailed and beautifully written book the two authors fulfill this brief triumphantly.
Farley and Symmons Roberts are not only a reader’s tonic; they also shake up our lazy perceptions of an aspect of England. Edgelands will gain imaginative significance as a result of this gem of a book.
A collection of sharp-witted vignettes of the badlands, dedicated to the redemptive spirit of these maligned places… These brief essays are a pleasure to read.
Other authors will owe much to Farley and Symmons Roberts, the first bards of England’s edgelands.
Edgelands delights with its sly, impish wit and observation.
Travelling mostly around northern England, Paul Farley and Michael Symmons Roberts, both of them British poets, find unexpected pleasures: a car gradually coming into view beneath the surface of a pond, like a photograph in a developing tray; children’s dens; a herd of water buffalo.
This often haunting, often inspiring book… It succeeds in being something distinctive in and of itself.
A book that begs us to use our imaginations; to appreciate what we pass by every day but never really see.
However readily we might understand what the authors mean by edgelands, reading this book you quickly get the sense that you can never truly know them. They are constantly rewarded by the unexpected—the witty graffito under the bridge, the bedstead in the nettles. I wasn’t far into the book before I too shared their devotion to these overlooked and somehow triumphant scraps of our overcrowded island.
The wealth of observation, reflection and the physical scope of the terrain covered is genuinely impressive… Their response is generously interdisciplinary, and beckons, not least, towards the spatial arts and professions. An important benchmark of sensitive observation.
This is a delightful and important book. By focusing on the fringes, on the shabby reality of suburban life, these poets remind us that there are always new myths for old, that the ‘edgelands’ may even be our true centre.
Few writers teach us to see the world afresh as Farley and Roberts do. They have imparted an original vision and blessed us with a beautiful book.
It’s a brilliant idea to give proper attention to those debatable zones, neither country nor city, which are always in flux. This is what Paul Farley and Michael Symmons Roberts do in their thoughtful and haunting book Edgelands. You know places of this sort well, glimpsed as you drive or walk past, but how often do you read about them?
One of the most exciting of the early-career (i.e. younger) English poets. A writer who brings danger to what he describes in the title of one piece as “Big Safe Themes,” Farley ranges effortlessly from Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark (the 1980s synth-pop hit makers) to Google Earth.
For those who believe poetry is too staid to comment on normal life, Paul Farley's work is a breath of fresh air. His poems contain heapings of pop culture, with layers upon layers of references such as treacle, CCTV, burning monks. Using humour and rhythm to organise the torrent of his words, he brings chaos to order and then order out of chaos. The Atlantic Tunnel, his latest collection, makes for a fine introduction to the Liverpudlian poet, whose ascent in Britain was swift upon the publication of his first book of poems.
The contents of Field Recordings: BBC Poems 1998-2008 invariably display an integrity of form that ensures their success in print…expansive syntax and dense imagery weave a remarkable fabric of natural, historical and social themes…an enjoyable and impressive collection.
Paul Farley is one of the most gifted poets to have emerged in the United Kingdom in recent years. Whether he’s writing about a train’s dramatic entering a tunnel or real life television or his own dodgy teeth, he manages to combine the hummability of a well-wrought lyric with a wonderfully humane world picture.
One of the most disarmingly original poets now writing.
Paul Farley’s poetic terrain lies in the blank spaces and featureless temporal zones that make up the margins of our lives, those times and places that slide into oblivion as soon as we pass through them. In Farley’s poems they are primary matter, and he treats them with an acute eye for the image, an admirable facility for the mot juste, and an unsentimental but affecting sense of loss… Farley takes up life’s slack tether and tautens it into poems that are rich in thought and memorable in expression, tuning in to a cosmic white noise that, though it may lack meaning, is never without significance.
Paul Farley is a poet of wit, sensuality and warmth… If the best poetry aspires to the condition of music, as Mallarmé suggests, then this is poetry of the highest order: melodic, humane and intellectually engaging, Tramp in Flames renews our contract with the given world, yet challenges us to think again about what we see, and what we take for granted.
Farley posits a twenty-first century lyric mode where the poet no longer gets easy access to the real thing – whatever that may be – at the heart of nature’s rolling sublime. Instead all is surface and curve; what radar can catch before the vehicle, if not the tenor, speeds away. Tramp in Flames represents one way in which mainstream twenty-first century poetry is likely to develop: as it marries thought and form with humour and feeling, with one haunted eye looking back, the other, curiouser, looking ahead.
The passage of time tempers Farley’s brashness with a strain of melancholy, lending his poetry a likeable vulnerability.
Paul Farley is one of the most interesting poets in a strong generation. His third book, Tramp in Flames, represents a steady deepening of attention, carrying him into a terrain that offers the reader more invitations than signposts, in language combining laconic wit with passionate detail.
With just a few books, Paul Farley has established himself as one of the most distinctive voices in contemporary British poetry. This volume [Tramp in Flames], his third, consolidates and extends that voice, taking greater emotional risks, and exploring still more intricate marriages of perception with form. This is indeed a poetry of perceptual mastery, constantly witnessing, and constantly alert to, the subtler turns of thought, always pushing at an idea to find a new angle, always turning over a feeling to detect its smallest shifts and finer degrees of shading.
Paul Farley is really resonant without being at all flashy. There are strong ideas threaded through it and lines that go into your head that you know will stick with you for a really, really long time.
Farley's is one of our most vital and engaging voices… He has the knack of both establishing and undermining the securities of memory purely through turn of phrase.
In The Ice Age his artful poems, funny, observant, brilliantly musical, are subtle with no trace of showing off; streetwise, erudite; elusive but very accessible…
Witty, tender, precise and playful, Farley charts aspects of modernity in the day-to -day, making the apparently ordinary vivid and unusual. He manages an elegiac note for parts of his Liverpudlian past, and for all the sassiness, he isn't smugly knowing or fashionably weary.
Farley attempts the most difficult climb of all, into the life of another, and his glittering cleverness is always grounded in feeling.
The most original and striking piece in this anthology is about growing up in Netherley, a council estate on the edge of farmland. Paul Farley and Niall Griffiths, who both grew up there, though ten years apart in age, return and talk about their experiences…This is human nature. But their memories are charged with something of the same exuberance that Kathleen Jamie felt, emerging from the autopsy room. It is good to be alive, and to be a child, even in a place like that. The current bears us all along, just as it will eventually strand each one of us.
New Statesman (on Granta 102: The New Nature Writing)
An eloquent, persuasive and careful quest for the wellsprings of director Terence Davies’ remarkable talent… All in all, a great deal is distilled into one small book, with all the evocative concision one wants from a poet.
Sight & Sound (on Distant Voices, Still Lives)
Poet and broadcaster Paul Farley was an inspired choice to write this excellent monograph… Farley’s book is a valuable and erudite companion piece.
Radio is the perfect medium for what pretentious people might call “sound journeys”. Earlier in the week, I listened to Radio 3's Sunday feature Six Unexpected Days, in which the poet Paul Farley followed the Pennine walk that W H Auden wrote up in 1954 for American Vogue, somewhat bizarrely. The programme was part of a BBC season marking Auden's centenary. It was magical. Auden carried an OS map of Alston Moor with him wherever he went, and this 45-minute feature brought that map vividly to life. But then, we were in the hands of a presenter who had embarked on his project in a spirit of inquiry… Farley only had eyes for all that limestone.
This play [When Louis Met George] by Paul Farley, an award-winning poet, proved an intriguing historical arabesque in the margin of history that poses all sorts of tantalising questions… The seeds of Big Brother seem to have been found in the unlikely figure of Lord Reith. Splendidly acted and produced (even the sound effect of the dripping plumbing spoke of the earnest righteousness of the BBC), this belonged to the higher echelon of radio drama.
Readings and Lectures
2nd BBC/Louis MacNeice Memorial Lecture, Queens University, Belfast, 2008
Kings Place Inauguration Event: Touching the Sky, London, 2008
Griffin Poetry Prize: Guest Speaker, Toronto, 2008
Cairo International Book Fair, British Council, Cairo, 2009
Mapping, Memory and the City, School of Architecture, University of Liverpool, 2010
LitPop Conference, University of Northumbria, Newcastle, 2011
Readings (since 2008)
South Bank Centre, Royal College of Art, Bethnal Green Working Men’s Club, Newcastle Writing School, Ledbury Poetry Festival, Latitude Festival, Bath Literature Festival, Oxford OUPS, Foyles Bookshop, Wordsworth Trust, Durham University, Writing on the Wall Festival: Liverpool, 192 Books: New York, Everyman Theatre: Liverpool, Arnolfini: Bristol Poetry Festival, Words and Music Festival: Nantwich, Bedales School, King’s Place: London, London Review of Books Bookshop, Stanza Festival: St Andrews, Poetry Now Festival: Dun Laoghaire, Laugharne Weekend, Norsk Litteraturfestival, London Literature Festival, 24th John Hewitt Summer School, Edinburgh International Book Festival, the Times Cheltenham Literature Festival, Ilkley Litfest, Durham Book Festival, Newcastle Centre for Literary Arts, Sheffield Off the Shelf Festival… and many others.