A Century of Childhoods
In his latest collection of poems, British poet and playwright Tony Connor vividly recreates scenes based his childhood, or childhoods—remembered, imagined, and invented—as he grew up in a working-class neighborhood of Manchester, England in the 1930s.
Prior works: With Love Somehow, Lodgers, 12 Secret Poems, Kon in Springtime, In the Happy Valley, The Memoirs of Uncle Harry, Seven Last Poems from the Memoirs of Uncle Harry, New and Selected Poems, Spirits of the Place, Metamorphic Adventures, Things Unsaid: Selected Poems 1960-2005, The Empty Air
Tony Connor was born in 1930 and raised in a largely Jewish, working-class area of Manchester, England. When he was five, his father abandoned the family and Connor never saw him again. He left school at the age of fourteen and was apprenticed to a textile design studio, where he worked for sixteen years. During that time, he was conscripted into the British Army from 1948 to 1950, serving as a trooper in the Fifth Royal Inniskilling Dragoon Guards with the army of occupation in Germany.
In 1957, with poet Robin Skelton and painter Michael Snow, Connor founded the Peterloo Group of Manchester. The group was formed to bring together regional writers and artists, providing a community venue to share, discuss, and exhibit their works. The Peterloo Group became an important influence in the eventual formation of the Manchester Institute of Contemporary Arts.
After abandoning textile design, Connor taught life drawing at an art school and cake design at a bakery, leading to a position teaching liberal studies at Bolton Technical College. In his mid-twenties, he began to write poems, which led to his first publication in 1962. During the 1960s, Connor married and became a father to two sons and a daughter. In 1967, he earned a non-traditional M.A. at the University of Manchester and was invited to teach in the United States, where he worked for a year as Writer in Residence at Amherst College in Massachusetts.
Following Amherst, Connor returned to England for two years and turned his attention to theatre. He wrote several plays for children and adults which were performed professionally on the British stage. While commissioned to write a play for BBC Television, he also became an anchorman on a nightly magazine program for Granada Television.
In 1971, Connor returned to the United States as a Professor of English at Wesleyan University. There, he taught writing and ran a studio theatre devoted to producing student-written drama. In 1974, he was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature. The McPherson Library at the University of Victoria holds a selection of his papers and, his first love being art, a number of Connor's paintings reside in private and public collections.