Al Alvarez
Al Alvarez is an English
English people
The English are a nation and ethnic group native to England, who speak English. The English identity is of early mediaeval origin, when they were known in Old English as the Anglecynn. England is now a country of the United Kingdom, and the majority of English people in England are British Citizens...

A poet is a person who writes poetry. A poet's work can be literal, meaning that his work is derived from a specific event, or metaphorical, meaning that his work can take on many meanings and forms. Poets have existed since antiquity, in nearly all languages, and have produced works that vary...

, writer and critic
A critic is anyone who expresses a value judgement. Informally, criticism is a common aspect of all human expression and need not necessarily imply skilled or accurate expressions of judgement. Critical judgements, good or bad, may be positive , negative , or balanced...

 who publishes under the name A. Alvarez and Al Alvarez.

Born Alfred Alvarez, he was educated at Oundle School
Oundle School
Oundle School is a co-educational British public school located in the ancient market town of Oundle in Northamptonshire. The school has been maintained by the Worshipful Company of Grocers of the City of London since its foundation in 1556. Oundle has eight boys' houses, five girls' houses, a day...

 and Corpus Christi College, Oxford
Corpus Christi College, Oxford
Corpus Christi College is one of the constituent colleges of the University of Oxford in the United Kingdom...

, where he took a First in English. After teaching briefly in Oxford and the USA, he became a fulltime writer in his late twenties. From 1956 to 1966, he was the poetry editor and critic for The Observer
The Observer
The Observer is a British newspaper, published on Sundays. In the same place on the political spectrum as its daily sister paper The Guardian, which acquired it in 1993, it takes a liberal or social democratic line on most issues. It is the world's oldest Sunday newspaper.-Origins:The first issue,...

, where he introduced British readers to John Berryman
John Berryman
John Allyn Berryman was an American poet and scholar, born in McAlester, Oklahoma. He was a major figure in American poetry in the second half of the 20th century and was considered a key figure in the Confessional school of poetry...

, Robert Lowell
Robert Lowell
Robert Traill Spence Lowell IV was an American poet, considered the founder of the confessional poetry movement. He was appointed the sixth Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress where he served from 1947 until 1948...

, Sylvia Plath
Sylvia Plath
Sylvia Plath was an American poet, novelist and short story writer. Born in Massachusetts, she studied at Smith College and Newnham College, Cambridge before receiving acclaim as a professional poet and writer...

, Zbigniew Herbert
Zbigniew Herbert
Zbigniew Herbert was an influential Polish poet, essayist, drama writer, author of plays, and moralist. A member of the Polish resistance movement – Home Army during World War II, he is one of the best known and the most translated post-war Polish writers...

, and Miroslav Holub
Miroslav Holub
Miroslav Holub was a Czech poet and immunologist.Miroslav Holub's work was heavily influenced by his experiences as an Immunologist, writing many poems using his scientific knowledge to poetic effect. His work is almost always unrhymed, so lends itself easily to translation...


Alvarez is the author of many non-fiction books. He is best known for his study of suicide, The Savage God, which gained added resonance from his friendship with Plath. He has also written on divorce (Life After Marriage), dreams (Night), and the oil industry (Offshore), as well as his hobbies of poker (The Biggest Game In Town
The Biggest Game in Town
In 1983, Al Alvarez published, The Biggest Game in Town, a book detailing the 1981 World Series of Poker event. The first book of its kind, it described the world of professional poker players and the World Series of Poker. It is credited with beginning the genre of poker literature and with...

) and mountaineering (Feeding the Rat, a profile of his frequent climbing partner Mo Anthoine
Mo Anthoine
Julian Vincent "Mo" Anthoine was a British mountaineer who climbed extensively in the Himalayas in the 1970s and 80s....

). His 1999 autobiography is entitled Where Did It All Go Right?

His 1962 poetry anthology The New Poetry
The New Poetry
The New Poetry was a poetry anthology edited by Al Alvarez, published in 1962 and in a revised edition in 1966. It was greeted at the time as a significant review of the post-war scene in English poetry....

 was hailed at the time as a fresh departure. It championed the American style
Poetry of the United States
American poetry, the poetry of the United States, arose first as efforts by colonists to add their voices to English poetry in the 17th century, well before the constitutional unification of the thirteen colonies...

, in relation to the perceived excessive 'gentility' of British poetry
British poetry
British poetry is a term rarely used, as almost all poets of the British world are clearly identified with one of the various nations within those areas....

 of the time. In 2010 he was awarded the A.C.Benson Medal
Benson Medal
The Benson Medal is a medal awarded by the Royal Society of Literature in the UK.It was founded in 1916 by A. C. Benson who was a Fellow of the Society, to honour those who produce "meritorious works in poetry, fiction, history and belles-lettres."...

 by the Royal Society of Literature.

Alvarez was portrayed by Jared Harris
Jared Harris
Jared Francis Harris is a British character actor, well known for playing the obnoxious Mac McGrath in the Adam Sandler film Mr. Deeds, and for his portrayal of Lane Pryce on the AMC series Mad Men.- Personal life :...

 in the 2003 film
A film, also called a movie or motion picture, is a series of still or moving images. It is produced by recording photographic images with cameras, or by creating images using animation techniques or visual effects...

 Sylvia, which chronicles the troubled relationship between Plath and her husband Ted Hughes
Ted Hughes
Edward James Hughes OM , more commonly known as Ted Hughes, was an English poet and children's writer. Critics routinely rank him as one of the best poets of his generation. Hughes was British Poet Laureate from 1984 until his death.Hughes was married to American poet Sylvia Plath, from 1956 until...


Selected works

  • The Shaping Spirit (1958)
  • The School of Donne (1961)
  • The New Poetry' (1962)
  • Under Pressure (1965)
  • Beyond All This Fiddle (1968)
  • The Savage God (1972)
  • Beckett (Fontana Modern Masters
    Fontana Modern Masters
    The Fontana Modern Masters was a series of pocket guides on the writers, philosophers, and other thinkers and theorists whose ideas were shaping the intellectual landscape of the twentieth century. The first five titles were published on 12 January 1970 by Fontana Books, the paperback imprint of...

    , 1973)
  • Hers (1974)
  • Hunt (1979)
  • Life After Marriage (1982)
  • The Biggest Game in Town (1983)
  • Feeding the Rat (1989)
  • Day of Atonement (1991)
  • Night (1995)
  • Where Did It All Go Right? (1999)
  • Poker: Bets, Bluffs, and Bad Beats (2001)
  • New & Selected Poems (2002)
  • The Writer's Voice (2005)
  • Risky Business (2007)

External links

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