Adrian Mitchell (1932-2008) was a prolific poet, playwright and children’s writer. His poetry’s simplicity, clarity, passion and humour show his allegiance to a vital, popular tradition embracing William Blake as well as the Border Ballads and the blues. His most nakedly political poems – about nuclear war, Vietnam, prisons and racism – became part of the folklore of the Left, sung and recited at demonstrations and mass rallies. After Allison & Busby stopped publishing poetry, he brought his work to Bloodaxe. Adrian Mitchell’s Greatest Hits: His 40 Golden Greats (1991) was followed by four books covering 50 years of his work: Heart on the Left: Poems 1953-1984 (1997), Blue Coffee: Poems 1985-1996 (1996), All Shook Up: Poems 1997-2000 (2000) and The Shadow Knows: Poems 2000-2004 (2004). Tell Me Lies: Poems 2005-2008 follows from Bloodaxe in 2009. His collected poems for children, Umpteen Pockets (Orchard Books), and Shapeshifters, his versions of Ovid’s Metamorphoses, illustrated by Alan Lee (Frances Lincoln), are both published in October 2009.
Born in London in 1932, Adrian Mitchell worked as a journalist from 1955 to 1966, when he became a full-time writer. He gave many hundreds of readings throughout the world in theatres, colleges, pubs, prisons, streets, public transport, cellars, clubs and schools of all kinds. Many of his plays and stage adaptations were performed at the National Theatre as well as by the Royal Shakespeare Company and other theatre companies. In 2002, the socialist magazine Red Pepper dubbed him Shadow Poet Laureate and asked him to write regular republican poems for their columns. In a National Poetry Day poll in 2005, his poem ‘Human Beings’ was voted the poem that most people would like to see launched into space.
'Blue Coffee has explosive energy, well-directed rage, undimmed idealism, a tremendous sense of how poetry can speak directly, and an innocence which is believable because it is wise.'
- Andrew Motion, judging T.S. Eliot Prize