GREY GOWRIE was born in Dublin in 1939. He made his home in Ireland until 1983 when he moved to the Welsh Marches. He taught English and American literature at Harvard and University College London; he has also been a Cabinet minister, Chairman of the Arts Council of England, and Provost of the Royal College of Art.


I want the words to light on your shoulder
like a hand: touch but not take hold.


You understand they are no more than a gesture
between us and I have tuned my voice so low


no one else shall hear them: they are just for you.
Do not mistake them for intimacy however.


We are a long way off still—we have
a long way to go—the words may contain


an immoderate danger: words are so dangerous.
But if we are careful, if we do not make trouble


between us we shall learn to give them a name.



“[Grey Gowrie] rages movingly against the dying of the light, covering heroic distances and charting epic struggles in… unflinching and atmospheric pages. Grey Gowrie’s poems—utterly free from any querulous or self-pitying role—touch the reader’s own heart as they give voice to the ‘poor, bare, forked’ individuals who are enmeshed in the tubes and wires of machine-age medicine.”


Times Literary Supplement



“Gowrie, like Byron, is a wit. I can’t remember when last, if indeed ever, I dared use the ‘masterpiece’ of the work of a contemporary. I do so now . . . ”


—Jon Stallworthy, Poetry