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‘I go the zoo half because I like looking at the animals and half because I like looking at the people… The pleasure of dappled things, the beauty of adaptation to purpose, the glory of extravagance, classic elegance or romantic nonsense and grotesquerie – all these we get from the Zoo.’

In 1938 Louis MacNeice published his second collection of poems with Faber; his ‘personal essay’ Modern Poetry for OUP; and Zoo, a prose commission from Michael Joseph to write an impressionistic ‘guide’ to the London Zoo in Regents Park. Envisioned as a breezy assignment MacNeice’s Zoo inevitably became a richer endeavour, taking in side-trips to Paris and Belfast. Zoo also benefited from illustrations by the painter Nancy Sharp, with whom MacNeice had begun an affair after moving to London in 1936.

This Faber Finds edition returns to circulation a delightful rarity by one of the twentieth century’s most brilliant poets.


Louis MacNeice was born in Belfast in 1907, the son of a Church of Ireland rector, later a bishop. He was educated in England at Sherborne, Marlborough and Merton College, Oxford. His first book of poems, Blind Fireworks, appeared in 1929, and he subsequently worked as a translator, literary critic, playwright, autobiographer, BBC producer and feature writer. The Burning Perch,…

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The Burning Perch
Louis MacNeice