Thomas Blackburn
born Feb. 10, 1916, Hensingham, Cumberland, Eng.
died Aug. 13, 1977, Wales

English poet, novelist, and critic whose verse is notable for haunted self-examination and spiritual imagery.

The son of a clergyman, Blackburn was educated at the University of Durham. In his autobiographical novel, A Clip of Steel (1969), he depicts a childhood tormented by a tense and repressive father, his own breakdown in his early twenties, and his successful psychoanalysis. Blackburn’s first notable volume of verse was The Holy Stone (1954). His later volumes include A Smell of Burning (1961), A Breathing Space (1964), The Fourth Man (1971), Selected Poems (1976), and Post Mortem (1977). His collection Bread for the Winter Birds (1980) was published posthumously. Blackburn’s early verse exhibits the rhetorical influence of William Butler Yeats, but his later poetry is rhythmically looser and more conventional. Among his prose works are Robert Browning (1967); a survey of modern poets, The Price of an Eye (1961); a musical drama, The Judas Tree (1965; with composer Peter Dickinson); and the novel The Feast of the Wolf (1971). Blackburn taught at the College of St. Mark and St. John in Chelsea, London, among other schools.