Cliff Ashby

Cliff Ashby was born in Norfolk in 1919. He left school at thirteen and a half, trained as a window dresser and finally became a shop manager at the age of 19.

During the Second World War, he was registered as a conscientious objector on condition that he undertook agricultural work, and in so doing met a number of artists and poets. He began a new cultural life from which he never looked back.

He continued to work as a dairyman from 1939 to 1956, when severe back trouble led to his retirement and registration as disabled. In 1957, he finally found employment in a structural engineer’s office before joining the Civil Service in 1962.

Though author of two novels and four books of poetry, Ashby did not start writing until he was forty. Right to the end of his life, his lucid, spare lines remained second to none. He was not a prolific writer, but what he has to say was worth waiting for. As he himself has said:

It's hard to put the words down

Not the physical effort
But the demand for truth
Makes every word suspect.

Cliff died on April 30th, peacefully at home. He was 92.


Poetry publications:

  • Cliff Ashby: Sampler, HappenStance, 2009.
  • A Few Late Flowers, HappenStance, 2007
  • In the Vulgar Tongue, Hodder & Stoughton, 1968.
  • The Dogs of Dewsbury, Carcanet, 1976.
  • Lies and Dreams, Carcanet 1980
  • Plain Song (Collected Poems), Carcanet, 1985



  • Howe and Why, Hodder & Stoughton, 1969.
  • The Old Old Story, Hodder & Stoughton, 1969.