Poetry London


Marchmont Street
London, WC1N 1RE
United Kingdom
Craven House, London, WC2A 2HT
United Kingdom
Manchester Square
London, W1U 3EJ
United Kingdom
Other names: 


Poetry (London)

Date began: 
01 Feb 1939
Precise date began unknown: 
Date ended: 
01 Jan 1951
Precise date ended unknown: 

M. J. Tambimuttu and Anthony Dickins launched this literary magazine in 1939, with the former as literary editor and the latter as general editor, but it was Tambimuttu who was the driving force behind it. Well regarded in the literary world, it featured the work of many of the most influential British poets of the period, including Lawrence Durrell, W. H. Auden, Louis MacNeice and Stephen Spender, as well as reviews of poetry, fictions, plays, literary magazines and scholarly work, and some short prose, critical essays and illustrations. It also published work by new poets, declaring in its first editorial that 'every man has poetry within him'. Indeed, T. S. Eliot said of the magazine: 'It is only in Poetry London that I can consistently expect to find new poets who matter'. Initially funded by subscriptions and donations, and frequently suffering from paper shortages during the Second World War, the magazine was beset by financial difficulties and appeared irregularly. From 1942 to 1947, it gained the backing of publishers Nicholson & Watson, who also asked Tambimuttu to develop his own imprint of books, Editions Poetry London. As well as writers, Editions Poetry London promoted several artists, publishing work by Barbara Hepworth and Henry Moore, among others. After Nicholson & Watson withdrew their support in 1947, the magazine gained the financial backing of Richard March until its demise in 1951.

Correspondence between Tambimuttu and his contributors (MSS Add 88907-8, British Library, St Pancras) highlights the central position occupied by Poetry London and its editor Tambimuttu within the literary and artistic networks of 1940s London. Letters to the editor suggest that several well known cultural figures felt much personal affection for Tambimuttu and that the magazine was held in high regard by the literary establishment, as well as triggering debate and controversy. There is some rather limited evidence of connections between Tambimuttu and other Indian writers, resident in both India and Britain (for example, Ahmed Ali and Cedric Dover) – although the work of Indian poets and writers rarely appears in the magazine. The correspondence also gives insight into the impact of war on literary culture.

Key individuals: 
Key Individuals' Details: 

Editors: M. J. Tambimuttu (until 1949), Anthony Dickins (early issues), Richard March (from 1949).


George Barker, Audrey Beecham, Ronald Bottrall, Robert Cecil, Alex Comfort, Dorian Cooke, Keith Douglas, Lawrence Durrell, T. S. Eliot, Paul Eluard, Gavin Ewart, G. S. Fraser, Lucian Freud, Diana Gardner, David Gascoyne, Barbara Hepworth, Pierre Jean Jouve, Alun Lewis, Louis MacNeice, Walter de la Mare, Henry Miller, Joan Miro, Henry Moore, Nicholas Moore, Pablo Neruda, George Orwell, Mervyn Peake, Paul Potts, Kathleen Raine, Balachandra RajanHerbert Read, Keidrych Rhys, Anne Ridler, Rainer Maria Rilke, Francis Scarfe, Edith Sitwell, Stephen Spender, Graham Sutherland, Dylan Thomas, Henry Treece, Gerald Wilde, Stephen Coates.

Books Reviewed Include: 

Aiken, Conrad, The Soldier: A Poem (London: Editions Poetry, 1946)

Auden, W. H., 'For the Time Being'

Connolly, Cyril, Horizon: A Review of Literature and Art

Durrell, Lawrence, A Private Country (London: Faber & Faber, 1943)

Eliot, T. S., The Family Reunion (London: Faber & Faber, 1939)

Eliot, T. S., East Coker  (London: Faber & Faber, 1940)

Empson, William, The Gathering Storm (London: Faber & Faber, 1940)

Garcia Lorca, Federico, Poems, trans. by Stephen Spender and J. L. Gili; selection and introduction by R. M. Nadal (London: Dolphin, 1939)

MacNeice, Louis, Autumn Journal: A Poem (London: Faber & Faber, 1939)

Menon, V. K. Narayana, The Development of William Butler Yeats (London: Oliver & Boyd, 1942)

Read, Herbert, Poems

Sassoon, Siegfried, Rhymed Ruminations (London: Chiswick Press, 1939)

Spender, Stephen, The Still Centre (London: Faber & Faber, 1939)

The Geeta: The Gospel of the Lord Shri Krishna, trans. by Shri Purohit Swami (London: Faber & Faber, [1935] 1942)

Tambimuttu, M. J., Out of This War: A Poem (London: Fortune Press, 1941)

Watkins, Vernon, The Lamp and the Veil: Poems (London: Faber & Faber, 1945)

Secondary works: 

Beckett, Chris, ‘Tambimuttu and the Poetry London Papers at the British Library: Reputation and Evidence’, Electronic British Library Journal (2009): http://www.bl.uk/eblj/2009articles/article9.html

Maclaren-Ross, J., Memoirs of the Forties (London: Alan Ross Ltd, 1965)

Ranasinha, Ruvani, South Asian Writers in Twentieht-Century Britain: Culture in Translation (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007)

Williams, Jane, Tambimuttu: Bridge Between Two Worlds (London: Peter Owen, 1989)

Archive source: 

Add. MS 88907, M. J. Tambimuttu papers, British Library, St Pancras

Add. MS 88908, Richard March papers, British Library, St Pancras

Northwestern University, Chicago

Poetry London–New York records, Columbia University Rare Book and Manuscript Library, New York