Douglas Oliver

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Douglas Dunlop Oliver (14 September 1937 – 21 April 2000) was a poet, novelist, editor, and educator. The author of more than a dozen works, Oliver came into poetry not as an academic but through a career in journalism, notably in Cambridge, Paris, and Coventry, before attending the University of Essex in the 1970s. He received a B.A. (literature) in 1975 and an M.A. (applied linguistics) in 1982. Oliver subsequently lived in Brightlingsea, Paris, New York, and again Paris, usually working as a lecturer.[1]


His parents, Athole and Marjorie Oliver, were Scottish Presbyterians. He left school at fifteen, did national service as a clerk in the RAF School of Cookery and found his way into provincial journalism. He became a journalist first in Coventry and then in Cambridge, and was a staff reporter on the Cambridge Evening News.

"A poet of modern Paris has to write about more than the river mists ..., More than midway through my life I have begun writing Arrondissements, a series of books, or long sequences in poetry and prose, designed to reflect the world at large through the prism of Paris."
Douglas Oliver [2]

In 1962, he married Janet Hughes. They had two daughters, Kate and Bonamy, and a son, Tom. They moved to Cambridge in about 1968. It was there that Oliver formed some ties with a group of poets with connections to The English Intelligencer and the Ferry and Grosseteste presses: part of the group vaguely associated with J. H. Prynne which today is acknowledged as an important epicenter of innovative poetry in the United Kingdom (these poets subsequently became known as the Cambridge poets). At this time, Oliver's own poems began to be published.

In 1970, the family moved to Paris where Oliver worked for Agence France-Presse. Upon his return to England, Oliver took his place as a student at Essex University, which had also become a gathering place for poets. Significantly, it was there that he befriended the American poets Ted Berrigan (1934—1982) and Alice Notley.

During the 1970s and 1980s, Oliver continued to lecture, teach, edit and write. His first marriage dissolved in 1987. Eventually Oliver moved to New York and in February 1988 married Alice Notley who had two sons with Ted Berrigan: Edmund and Anselm Berrigan (both of whom, subsequently, have become established writers themselves). In 1992, Oliver returned to Paris, and lived there with Notley until his death. According to John Hall, it was during this phase of his life that Oliver was working mostly on Arrondissements.[3]

Further reading[edit]


  1. ^ Author Page at Salt Publishing
  2. ^ "Introduction" to Arrondissements
  3. ^ "Ventriloquising Against Harm" by John Hall Ostensibly a review of Oliver's posthumous publication Whisper ‘Louise’: A double historical memoir and meditation, Hall's piece extensively investigates Oliver's sense of a poetics in terms of a life devoted to family, friends, work, and poetry.

Selected bibliography[edit]


External links[edit]

John Hall on Oliver's work