portsmouth poetry 

From A Borrowed Biro

Welcome to the Website of Portsmouth Poetry

Established in 2016 we are a non-profit body encouraging poets and poetry in the city specialising in community and educational projects.

A Farewell to Clive James

Author, critic, broadcaster, translator and memoirist, Clive James was best known as a popular television presenter and interviewer but was also a brilliant poet and lyricist. Born in Sydney Australia in 1939, he moved to the UK in 1962 holding down a variety of short term jobs as a member of the Australian exodus that included Bruce Beresford and Barry Humphries. He went to Cambridge where he was friends with fellow émigré Germain Greer, joined the Footlights with Python Eric Idle and appeared on University Challenge.

In 1972 he abandoned a PhD thesis on Shelley to join the Observer as television critic. His reviews quickly became popular for their lucidity, frankness and wit. These were later published in a series of books before he moved on to literary criticism continuing well into the new millennium. At the same time, he collaborated with the musician Pete Atkin writing the lyrics for six albums of Atkin’s music including the beautiful poem to unrequited love “Flowers and Wine”.

Listen to  "The Flowers And The Wine" on You Tube

His first poetry was published in 1974 and from the 1980’s he went on to publish ten collections including a translation of Dante’s Divine Comedy. In total he published more than twenty works of non-fiction, 5 popular memoirs and several novels. 

His television career began as a guest contributor and co-presenter for Granada which included a famous appearance by the Sex Pistols. This led to the ITV show Clive James on Television, the first of a series of highly popular shows produced by his company ‘Watchmaker’ during the 80’s and 90’s and one of the earliest chat-shows. He went on to present travel programmes and documentaries that were broadcast in the UK, America and his native Australia. Less well known is that he could speak six languages in addition to English and was a tango dancer!

Despite this impressive career, it was as a writer he identified himself and primarily a poet. Diagnosed with terminal leukaemia and not long to live, he produced a superb collection of poems ‘Sentenced To Live’ confronting his impending demise and the beauties of life.


“I breathe the air

As if there were not much more of it there

And write these poems, which are funeral songs

That have been taught to me by vanished time”

A pharmaceutical breakthrough enabled James to live for nearly ten years after his diagnosis which he spent writing, producing another collection "Injury Time" and a powerful epic ‘The River In the Sky’ published a year ago

‘Few people read
Poetry any more but I still wish
To write its seedlings down, if only for the lull
Of gathering: no less a harvest season
For being the last time.’

Four years ago when we began Portsmouth Poetry we needed a 'brand identifier', a slogan to reflect our intent. If  few people read poetry,  fewer still write it but in times of extreme joy or sadness it’s always poetry we turn to, borrowing the poets words where we struggle to find our own. One of the love songs Clive James wrote for Pete Atkin, ‘Have You Got A Biro I Can Borrow?’ So our sub-text became “From A Borrowed Biro”. Early one morning I emailed his agents to ask permission to borrow his words. I did not expect a rapid reply from a busy literary agency, even less a poet struggling with terminal leukaemia but less than two hours later his agency rang me to say that they had spoken to Clive who happily gave his permission without restriction or requirement and sent his best wishes for our success. It has been an honour to have had his endorsement !


What's New?

'Away With Words' is our monthly event at Portsmouth Guildhall Studio celebrating the many forms the spoken word can take

Details of the next Away With Words event will be published soon.

What's On the Site?

The site is in 8 Sections, some with more than one page....



Our Mission

+ Partners

+ Gallery

+ Who We Are

+ Contact

+ Links


Biographies and Reviews of poets past and present


Our monthly spoken word event at Portsmouth Guildhall Studio explores the many forms words may take. A 'Pay-What-You-Feel' event with Bar. 



Poetry and arts related information for the area. Your chance to advertise and promote your organisation and events!


The result of our WW1 project funded by Heritage Lottery, Arts Council England and Big Ideas

+ Paaschendaele  2017

Men from Portsmouth who fought in the worst battle of WW1 narrated through poetry. A Heritage Lottery funded project

+ Lost Poets

The lives and work of the poets who died in WW1

+ Invisible Women

The women poets of WW1 whose work is often overlooked


New and unpublished poetry sent in to the site with author profiles

+ Send us your Poems

How to submit your poetry to our site


Portsmouth Poetry is run by Welsh lovers of spoken and written word (one from West Wales & one from the North). Inevitably, we love the great (and the greatest) poets from the land of Bards. 

Articles, information and events about one of the greatest modern poets who lived in Hampshire for a while including new insights and views from Portsmouth Poetry 



One of the American actors at the rehearsals for the first ever performance of Under Milk Wood at the 'Y' in New York in 1953 asked for direction. This was Dylan's response. 

This is what Portsmouth Poetry is all about!

Occasional blogs plus guest contributions (feel free to send us your contributions


For regular updates, information or to comment and contribute visit our Facebook and Twitter pages ….



Portsmouth Festivities

Portsmouth Festivities has been an important part of the cultural calendar in the city since 1999.

For 10 days in June, the Festivities packs the city's unique venues with poetry, music, art, performance and talks bringing its rich heritage and thriving cultural scene to the forefront, broadening participation, capturing imaginations and celebrating diversity. 

Portsmouth Poetry is proud to be a Festivities Creative Partner.