Al Alvarez

Al Alvarez in 2006. Photo by Maggie Hannan. Licensed under Creative Commons, courtesy Wikimedia Commons.

Al Alvarez
Born August 5 1929 (1929-08-05) (age 91)
Occupation poet, author, critic
Nationality British
Period 1956–

Alfred Alvarez (born 5 August 1929) is an English poet, novelist, essayist, and critic who publishes as A. Alvarez and Al Alvarez.


Born in London, Alvarez was educated at Oundle School and Corpus Christi College, Oxford, where he took a First in English.

After teaching briefly in Oxford and the United States, he became a fulltime writer in his late 20s. From 1956 to 1966, he was the poetry editor and critic for The Observer, where he introduced British readers to John Berryman, Robert Lowell, Sylvia Plath, Zbigniew Herbert, and Miroslav Holub.

Alvarez is the author of many non-fiction books. He is best known for his study of suicide, The Savage God, which gained added resonance from his friendship with Plath. He has also written on divorce (Life After Marriage), dreams (Night), and the oil industry (Offshore), as well as his hobbies of poker (The Biggest Game In Town) and mountaineering (Feeding the Rat, a profile of his frequent climbing partner Mo Anthoine). His 1999 autobiography is entitled Where Did It All Go Right?

His 1962 poetry anthology The New Poetry was hailed at the time as a fresh departure. It championed the American style, in relation to the perceived excessive 'gentility' of British poetry of the time.


In 2010 he was awarded the A.C.Benson Medal by the Royal Society of Literature.[1]

In popular cultureEdit

Alvarez was portrayed by Jared Harris in the 2003 film Sylvia, which chronicles the troubled relationship between Plath and her husband Ted Hughes.



  • The End of It: Poems (by A Alvarez, Don Nice, & D. Page). privately printed, 1958.
  • Penguin Modern Poets 18 (by A. Alvarez, Roy Fuller, & Anthony Thwaite). Harmondsworth, UK: Penguin, 1970.
  • Apparition (paintings by Charles Blackman). St. Lucia, QLD: University of Queensland Press, 1971.
  • Autumn to Autumn, and selected poems, 1953–1976. London: Macmillan, (1978).
  • New and Selected Poems. London: Waywiser, 2002.


  • Hers. London: Weidenfield & Nicholson, 1974; New York: Random House, 1974.
  • Hunt. London: Macmillan, 1978; New York: Simon & Schuster, 1978.
  • Day of Atonement. London: Jonathan Cape, 1991; New York: Random House, 1991.


  • The Shaping Spirit: Studies in modern English and American poets. London: Chatto & Windus, 1958
    • published in U.S. as Stewards of Excellence: Studies in modern English and American poets. New York: Scribner, 1958.
  • The School of Donne. London: Chatto & Windus, 1961; New York: Pantheon, 1961.
  • Life After Marriage: Scenes from Divorce. London: Macmillan, 1982
    • published in U.S. as Life After Marriage: Love in an age of divorce. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1982.
  • Under Pressure: The writer in society: Eastern Europe and the U.S.A.. Harmondsworth, UK, Baltimore, MD, & Ringwood, Vic: Penguin, 1965.
  • Beyond All This Fiddle: Essays, 1955-1967. London: Penguin, 1968; New York: Random House, 1969.
  • The Savage God: A study of suicide. London: Weidenfield & Nicholson, 1971; New York: Norton, 1971.
  • Samuel Beckett. New York: Viking Press, 1973; London: Fontana / Collins, 1973.
  • The Biggest Game in Town. London: Andre Deutsch, 1983; Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin, 1983.
  • Offshore: a North Sea journey. London: Hodder & Stoughton, 1986; Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1986.
  • Feeding the Rat: Profile of a climber. London: Bloomsbury, 1988.
  • Night: Night life, night language, sleep and dreams. London: Jonathan Cape, 1994; New York: Norton, 1995.
  • Where Did It All Go Right? (autobiography). London: Richard Cohen, 1999; New York: William Morrow, 1999.
  • Poker: Bets, Bluffs, and Bad Beats (2001)
  • The Writer's Voice. London: Bloomsbury, 2005; New York: Norton, 2005.
  • Risky Business: people, pastimes, poker and books. London: Bloomsbury, 2007.
  • Pondlife: A swimmer's journal. London: Bloomsbury, 2013.


  • The New Poetry: An anthology. Harmondsworth, UK: Penguin, 1962
    • revised 1966, 1978, 1982.
  • Faber Book of Modern European Poetry. London: Faber, 1992.

Except where noted, bibliographical information courtesy WorldCat.[2]

See alsoEdit

Al Alvarez poetry reading for Oxfam

Al Alvarez poetry reading for Oxfam


  1. The Benson Medal
  2. Search results = au: A Alvarez, WorldCat, OCLC Online Computer Library Center Inc. Web, Apr. 18, 2014.

External linksEdit

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