Long Shadows

J. C. Hall
Date Published
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‘Wake up, Hall! There’ll be plenty of time
After this lesson for your poetry stuff.’
Sniggerings from the back. An urgent rhyme
Jumps on my mind and drives old Euclid off.

Those are the opening lines from one of J. C. Hall’s later poems, Curriculum Vitae, recalling his boyhood stirrings as a poet. His first published outing could hardly have been more auspicious, it was in a volume he shared with Keith Douglas and Norman Nicholson. Those two poets have long been on the Faber list: after all these years it a pleasure to welcome J. C. Hall to the fold.

Long Shadows: Poems 1938-2002, in the author’s words, ‘is not a collected poems in the sense of containing everything I’ve written and published, but a comprehensive selection of poems which seem, in their various ways, worth preserving.’ Don’t be misled by his characteristic modesty, these poems are very much ‘worth preserving’.

When reviewing the first edition of this volume, Vernon Scannell referred to J. C. Hall’s ‘considerable gifts’ going on to say, ‘it is interesting to watch the development of a talent that has always been rooted firmly in the great tradition of English lyrical poetry’ in a ‘tone . . . rather like that of a more genial Philip Larkin . . .’

In a nice apothegm, W. H. Auden once observed, ‘formal verse frees one from the fetters of one’s ego’ and in the poems of J. C. Hall we see a craftsmanship that yields to the reader constant pleasure and enjoyment. J. C. Hall should be better known.

‘Some of them are so very moving. I love the last lines of ”Juliot” – just the sort of thing I should like to have done myself.’ Philip Larkin (in a letter to the author)

‘Hall writes movingly and often wittily about childhood, love and loss. These poems are the real thing.’ Vernon Scannell, Sunday Telegraph

‘Everything in Long Shadows has the mark of a distinct, individual talent. These poems are finely-calculated, technically adept, and sometimes they can prove moving in a sudden, unexpected way.’ Alan Brownjohn, London Magazine

‘The result is real poems – moving elegies, spirited epiphanies, wryly humorous observations. I read this book with growing admiration and then – with enormous pleasure – I immediately read it again.’ Matt Simpson, Stride


J. C. Hall was born in London in 1920. He grew up in Tunbridge Wells, literally on the Kent and Sussex border. After living and working in London for many years he returned to Tunbridge Wells on retirement. He has eidited the Collected Poems of Edwin Muir and Keith Douglas and is Douglas’s Literary executor.

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