Fairfax was brought up in Devon. Because his father was away, he spent considerable time being raised by his maternal uncles, including bohemian poet George Barker (who once attacked him with an axe). He attended school in Plymouth (where he witnessed the destruction of the city by bombing in 1941).
He was briefly imprisoned in 1950, as a conscientious objector to the Korean War. Shortly afterward, at a party thrown by Dylan Thomas, he met Esther Berk; the 2 married in 1952, and lived briefly in Paris. After returning to England, Fairfax worked in a variety of jobs, including private eye and driving instructor, before becoming a teacher, first at Brockhurst prep school, Berkshire (1955-1960), and at John O'Gaunt School, Hungerford (1960-1964).
After leaving teaching, Fairfax took over the Phoenix Press, and also served as poetry editor on literary magazines Panache and Resurgence. He also worked for the British Council and held a number of side jobs, including being creative writing tutor at Reading Jail. In the early 1960's he met fellow poet John Moat, and the two founded the Arvon Foundation in 1968.
For the last 50 years of his life Fairfax lived in "The Thatch", a cottage in the Berkshires. His marriage ended in 1981. He died in 2009, survived by two sons.
- This I Say: Twelve poems. Newbury, UK: Phoenix Press, 1966.
- The 5th Horseman of the Apocalypse. Newbury, UK: Phoenix Press, 1969.
- Horizons. London: Edward Arnold, 1971.
- Adrift on the Star Brow of Taliesin. Newbury, UK: Phoenix Press, 1974.
- Bone Harvest Done: Poems. London: Sidgwick & Jackson, 1981.
- Wild Children. Newbury, UK: Phoenix Press, 1985.
- 100 Poems. Newbury, UK: Phoenix Press, 1992.
- The Way to Write: A stimulating guide to the craft of creative writing (with John Moat; introduciton by Ted Hughes). London: Elm Tree Books / Hamish Hamilton, 1981; New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1981.
- Creative Writing. London: Elm Tree Books, 1989.
- The Concorde File (illustrated by John Walsh). London: Ward Lock, 1967.
- Frontier of Going: An anthology of space poetry. London: Panther, 1969.
- Stop and Listen: An anthology of thirteen living poets. Harlow, UK: Longmans, 1969.
- Zuihitsu: Poetic journal and jottings. Francestown, NH: Typographeum, 1996.
- ↑ 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 Adam Thorpe, John Fairfax, Obituaries, The Guardian, January 21, 2009. Web, Jan. 11, 2014.
- ↑ 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 John Fairfax (1930-2009), The Poetry Archive. Web, Jan. 11, 2014.
- ↑ Search results = au:John Fairfax 1930-2009, WorldCat, OCLC Online Computer Library Center Inc. Web, Jan. 11, 2014.
- Audio / video
- Way to Write at Amazon.com
- Arvon Foundation Official website
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