Life and career
Jennings was born in Boston, Lincolnshire
Boston is a town and small port in Lincolnshire, on the east coast of England. It is the largest town of the wider Borough of Boston local government district and had a total population of 55,750 at the 2001 census...
. When she was six, her family moved to Oxford
The city of Oxford is the county town of Oxfordshire, England. The city, made prominent by its medieval university, has a population of just under 165,000, with 153,900 living within the district boundary. It lies about 50 miles north-west of London. The rivers Cherwell and Thames run through...
, where she remained for the rest of her life.
[ Couzyn, Jeni (1985) Contemporary Women Poets. Bloodaxe, pp. 98-100.]
There she later attended St Anne's College. After graduation, she became a librarian.
Jennings' early poetry was published in journals such as Oxford Poetry
, New English Weekly
, The Spectator
and Poetry Review
, but her first book was not published until she was 27. The lyrical poets she cited as having influenced her were Hopkins
Gerard Manley Hopkins, S.J. was an English poet, Roman Catholic convert, and Jesuit priest, whose posthumous 20th-century fame established him among the leading Victorian poets...
Wystan Hugh Auden , who published as W. H. Auden, was an Anglo-American poet,The first definition of "Anglo-American" in the OED is: "Of, belonging to, or involving both England and America." See also the definition "English in origin or birth, American by settlement or citizenship" in See also...
Robert von Ranke Graves 24 July 1895 – 7 December 1985 was an English poet, translator and novelist. During his long life he produced more than 140 works...
Edwin Muir was an Orcadian poet, novelist and translator born on a farm in Deerness on the Orkney Islands. He was remembered for his deeply felt and vivid poetry in plain language with few stylistic preoccupations....
Her second book, A Way of Looking
, won the Somerset Maugham award and marked a turning point, as the prize money allowed her to spend nearly three months in Rome
Rome is the capital of Italy and the country's largest and most populated city and comune, with over 2.7 million residents in . The city is located in the central-western portion of the Italian Peninsula, on the Tiber River within the Lazio region of Italy.Rome's history spans two and a half...
, which was a revelation. It brought a new dimension to her religious belief and inspired her imagination.
Regarded as traditionalist rather than an innovator, Jennings is known for her lyric poetry and mastery of form.
Her work displays a simplicity of metre and rhyme shared with Philip Larkin
Philip Arthur Larkin, CH, CBE, FRSL is widely regarded as one of the great English poets of the latter half of the twentieth century...
, Kingsley Amis
Sir Kingsley William Amis, CBE was an English novelist, poet, critic, and teacher. He wrote more than 20 novels, six volumes of poetry, a memoir, various short stories, radio and television scripts, along with works of social and literary criticism...
and Thom Gunn
Thom Gunn, born Thomson William Gunn , was an Anglo-American poet who was praised both for his early verses in England, where he was associated with The Movement and his later poetry in America, even after moving toward a looser, free-verse style...
, all members of the group of English poets known as The Movement.
She always made it clear that, whilst her life, which included a spell of severe mental illness, contributed to the themes contained within her work, she did not write explicitly autobiographical poetry. Her deeply held Roman Catholicism coloured much of her work.
She died in a care home in Bampton, Oxfordshire
Bampton, also called Bampton-in-the-Bush, is a village and civil parish in the Thames Valley about southwest of Witney in Oxfordshire. The parish includes the hamlet of Weald....
and is buried in Wolvercote Cemetery
Wolvercote Cemetery is a cemetery close to the north Oxford suburb of Wolvercote, England, off the Banbury Road. Unusually, this single cemetery is divided into areas to accommodate graves of the Jewish and Muslim communities, as well as all categories of Christians. Many Russians, Poles and other...
Selected honours and awards
- 1953: Arts Council of Great Britain
The Arts Council of Great Britain was a non-departmental public body dedicated to the promotion of the fine arts in Great Britain. The Arts Council of Great Britain was divided in 1994 to form the Arts Council of England , the Scottish Arts Council, and the Arts Council of Wales...
Prize for the best first book of poems for Poems
- 1955: Somerset Maugham Prize for A Way of Looking.
- 1987: W.H. Smith Literary Award for Collected Poems 1953–1985
- 1992: Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE
CBE and C.B.E. are abbreviations for "Commander of the Order of the British Empire", a grade in the Order of the British Empire.Other uses include:* Chemical and Biochemical Engineering...
- 2001: Honorary Doctorate of Divinity from Durham University
The University of Durham, commonly known as Durham University, is a university in Durham, England. It was founded by Act of Parliament in 1832 and granted a Royal Charter in 1837...
- Poems. Oxford: Fantasy Press
The Fantasy Press was an English publisher of poetry between 1951 and 1959.The company was established by Oscar Mellor in Swinford, Oxfordshire primarily to finance his work as a surrealist artist, but gained a high profile through discovering a series of poets who became major figures of The...
- A Way of Looking. London: André Deutsch
André Deutsch was a British publisher.After having learned the business of publishing working for Francis Aldor with whom he was interned in the Isle of Man during the Second World War and who had introduced him to the industry, André Deutsch left Aldor's employment after a few months to continue...
- A Sense of the World. London: André Deutsch, 1958
- Song For a Birth or a Death. London: André Deutsch, 1961
- The Sonnets of Michelangelo (translated by Jennings). London: Folio Society
The Folio Society is a book club based in London that produces new editions of classic books. Their books are notable for their high quality bindings and original illustrations...
- Recoveries. London: André Deutsch, 1964
- The Mind has Mountains. London: Macmillan
Macmillan Publishers Ltd, also known as The Macmillan Group, is a privately held international publishing company owned by Georg von Holtzbrinck Publishing Group. It has offices in 41 countries worldwide and operates in more than thirty others.-History:...
- The Secret Brother and Other Poems for Children. London: Macmillan, 1966
- Collected Poems 1967. London: Macmillan, 1967
- The Animals' Arrival. London: Macmillan, 1969
- Lucidities. London: Macmillan, 1970
- Relationships. London: Macmillan, 1972
- Growing Points. Cheadle: Carcanet
Carcanet Press is a publisher, primarily of poetry, based in the United Kingdom and founded in 1969 by Michael Schmidt.Carcanet Press is now in its fourth decade. In 2000 it was named the Sunday Times millennium Small Publisher of the Year...
- Consequently I Rejoice. Cheadle: Carcanet, 1977
- After the Ark. Oxford University Press
Oxford University Press is the largest university press in the world. It is a department of the University of Oxford and is governed by a group of 15 academics appointed by the Vice-Chancellor known as the Delegates of the Press. They are headed by the Secretary to the Delegates, who serves as...
- Selected Poems. Cheadle: Carcanet, 1979
- Moments of Grace. Manchester: Carcanet, 1980
- Celebrations and Elegies. Manchester: Carcanet, 1982
- Extending the Territory. Manchester: Carcanet, 1985
- Collected Poems 1953-1985. Manchester: Carcanet, 1986
- Tributes. Manchester: Carcanet, 1989
- Times and Seasons. Manchester: Carcanet, 1992
- Familiar Spirits. Manchester: Carcanet, 1994
- In the Meantime. Manchester: Carcanet, 1996
- A Spell of Words: Selected Poems for Children. London: Macmillan, 1997
- Praises. Manchester: Carcanet, 1998
- Timely Issues. Manchester: Carcanet, 2001
- New Collected Poems. Manchester: Carcanet, 2001
Selections and anthologies edited by Jennings
- The Batsford Book of Children's Verse (illustrated). London: Batsford, 1958
- An Anthology of Modern Verse: 1940-1960. London: Methuen, 1961
- Wuthering Heights and Selected Poems by Emily Brontë. London: Pan Books
Pan Books is an imprint which first became active in the 1940s and is now part of the British-based Macmillan Publishers owned by German publishers, Georg von Holtzbrinck Publishing Group....
- A Choice of Christina Rossetti's Verse. London: Faber and Faber
Faber and Faber Limited, often abbreviated to Faber, is an independent publishing house in the UK, notable in particular for publishing a great deal of poetry and for its former editor T. S. Eliot. Faber has a rich tradition of publishing a wide range of fiction, non fiction, drama, film and music...
- The Batsford Book of Religious Verse. London: Batsford, 1981
- A Poet's Choice. Manchester: Carcanet, 1996
- "The Difficult Balance". London Magazine
The London Magazine is a historied publication of arts, literature and miscellaneous interests. Its history ranges nearly three centuries and several reincarnations, publishing the likes of William Wordsworth, William S...
6.9 (1959): 27–30
- "The Restoration of Symbols: The Poetry of David Gascoyne". Twentieth Century 165 (June 1959): 567–577
- Let's Have Some Poetry! (for children). London: Museum Press, 1960
- "Poetry and Mysticism: on re-reading Bremond". Dublin Review
The Dublin Review was an influential Catholic periodical founded in 1836 by Michael Joseph Quin, Cardinal Wiseman and Daniel O'Connell. Quin had the original idea for the new journal, soon persuading Wiseman to lend his support, and next enlisting O'Connell whose Catholic Emancipation campaign he...
234 (1960): 84–91
- "The Unity of Incarnation: a study of Gerard Manley Hopkins". Dublin Review 234 (1960): 170–184
- Every Changing Shape: Mystical Experience and the Making of Poems. London: André Deutsch, 1961; Manchester: Carcanet, 1996 ISBN 978-1857542479
- Poetry Today (British Council
The British Council is a United Kingdom-based organisation specialising in international educational and cultural opportunities. It is registered as a charity both in England and Wales, and in Scotland...
and National British League). London: Longmans, Green and Co.
Longman was a publishing company founded in London, England in 1724. It is now an imprint of Pearson Education.-Beginnings:The Longman company was founded by Thomas Longman , the son of Ezekiel Longman , a gentleman of Bristol. Thomas was apprenticed in 1716 to John Osborn, a London bookseller, and...
- "Emily Dickinson and the Poetry of the Inner Life". Review of English Literature 3.2 (April 1962): 78–87
- Frost (Robert Frost
Robert Lee Frost was an American poet. He is highly regarded for his realistic depictions of rural life and his command of American colloquial speech. His work frequently employed settings from rural life in New England in the early twentieth century, using them to examine complex social and...
). Edinburgh: Oliver and Boyd, 1964
- Christianity and Poetry. London: Burns & Oates
Burns & Oates is a British Roman Catholic publishing house which now exists as an imprint of Continuum. It was founded by James Burns in 1835, originally as a bookseller...
- Reaching into Silence: a study of eight twentieth-century visionaries. New York: Barnes & Noble
Barnes & Noble, Inc. is the largest book retailer in the United States, operating mainly through its Barnes & Noble Booksellers chain of bookstores headquartered at 122 Fifth Avenue in the Flatiron District in Manhattan in New York City. Barnes & Noble also operated the chain of small B. Dalton...
- Seven Men of Vision: an appreciation. London: Visa Press, 1976
- "The State of Poetry". Agenda
Agenda is a literary journal published in London and founded by William Cookson. Agenda Editions is an imprint of the journal operating as a small press.-History and editorial orientation:...
27.3 (Autumn 1989): 40–41