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Introduction

Anthony Burgess was a versatile and productive poet whose career began in 1935 when a few adolescent poems were published in Manchester Xaverian College’s magazine The Electron. Over the course of his career, Burgess wrote many hundreds of poems, lyrics, fragments, and occasional verses – everything from epic poetry to linguistically innovative experiments. Most of his novels include original poetry, frequently as a central plot device.This is especially evident in the Enderby novels, which feature poems written by Burgess but published under the fictional nom de plume F.X. Enderby. Notably, his words for music were heard on and off Broadway, and almost featured in a Warner Brothers film (Will!, 1968). The 1973 musical Cyrano (starring Christopher Plummer) was a commercial success thanks in no small part to Burgess’s verse. Burgess’s 1976 epic verse novel Moses was the literary product of an equally epic Italian television series. Likewise, the verses and songs from Burgess’s Man of Nazareth (1979) arose out of a collaboration with the award-winning film and television director Franco Zeffirelli. His poetry career ended with a remarkable novel in verse (Byrne, posthumously published 1995), whose form was borrowed from Byron.

In his autobiography You’ve Had Your Time, Burgess says he sent his poems to T. S. Eliot, who sent back a mildly approving letter of rejection. Whilst that letter remains unfound, another letter in a private collection shows that, in 1954, Burgess’s poetry was subject to the formal scrutiny of another literary critic. Gareth Lloyd-Evans, a noted Shakespearean scholar, judged Burgess’s poetry as a part of a competition held by his local newspaper. Burgess won the competition, and saw his work published on the front page of the Banbury Guardian on 27 May 1954. In his note to the winner, the judge

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