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Archive of Mick Imlah


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The collection comprises: A. Literary and working papers, mid 1960s-2009; B. Business and financial papers, 1984-2006; and C. Personal correspondence, 1944-2008.


  • Creation: 1944-2009


4.5 Linear metres (28 physical shelfmarks)

Language of Materials

  • English

Conditions Governing Access

Some material is closed.

Conditions Governing Use

Permission to publish must be obtained from the rights holder.

Preferred Citation

Oxford, Bodleian Libraries [followed by shelfmark, e.g. MS. 12919/4].

Please see our help page for further guidance on citing archives and manuscripts.

Full range of shelfmarks:

MSS. 12919/1-28

Collection ID (for staff)

CMD ID 12919


Archive of the poet and literary critic Michael Ogilvie ('Mick') Imlah (1956-2009).

Biographical / Historical

Michael Ogilvie Imlah, better known as Mick Imlah, poet and literary critic, was born 26th September 1956 in Lewisham Hospital, with a twin sister, Fiona. Whilst his parents were both originally from Abderdeen, the Imlah family relocated from Bromley in Kent shortly after the twins' birth to Milngavie near Glasgow, where Mick attended the local primary school. After a decade or so, the family moved back to Kent and Mick attended Dulwich College from 1968. Whilst at Dulwich he wrote poems as well as short stories for the school magazine The Alleynian.

In 1976, Mick went on to read English at Magdalen College, Oxford, where his tutors included John Fuller and Alan Hollinghurst. After graduating with a first in 1979, Imlah embarked upon a DPhil on Arthurian myth in Victorian poetry; though this was never completed, he held junior lectureships at the college until 1988. Whilst at Magdalen, Mick continued to write poetry and was an active member of Magdalen's Florio Society. His first pamphlet of poems entitled The Zoologist's Bath and other adventures was printed by Fuller's Sycamore Press in June 1982. At Magdalen, he also played for both rugby and cricket college teams.

Imlah resurrected the publication of Oxford Poetry in 1983, the same year he became editor of the Poetry Review (a post he held until 1986). From 1987 to 1990, he had a editorial post at the luxury travel magazine Departures (ironically, having never previously travelled far).

Birthmarks, Imlah's first full collection of poems, was published in 1988. Having moved to London, he became Poetry Editor at Chatto & Windus in 1989, a post he held until 1993. His income was supplemented by writing reviews of fiction, non-fiction, television programmes and films for (among others) the Times Literary Supplement, The Guardian, The Observer and The Independent on Sunday.

In 1992, Mick joined the staff of the Times Literary Supplement and succeeded Alan Hollinghurst as Poetry Editor in 1995. After Birthmarks, poetry had taken somewhat of a back seat until 1992, when the Times Literary Supplement commissioned Mick to write a poem on the centenary of Tennyson's death.

In the 1990s and early 2000s, Imlah worked on biographical entries for The Oxford Companion to Twentieth-Century Poetry (published in 1994); wrote an introduction to Anthony Trollope's Dr Wortle's School (1999); co-edited with Robert Crawford The New Penguin Book of Scottish Verse (2000); and published a selection of verse by Alfred Lord Tennyson for Faber and Faber's 'Poet to poet' series (2004). Imlah published a number of new poems in Penguin Modern Poets 3 (1995) and the Clutag Press printed Diehard (2006), a taster of poems for his final collection, then still work in progress.

In autumn 2007, Mick was diagnosed with Motor Neurone Disease. His second - and final - collection of poetry, The Lost Leader, which had been at least 10 years in the making, was published in 2008 and won the Forward Prize for best poetry book of the year. Drawing heavily upon his Scottish roots, Imlah also paid tribute to his partner, Maren Meinhardt, and his two young daughters. Mick died in early January 2009, aged 52 and was buried in Ayrshire after a funeral service at Magdalen College.

For further details, please see The Oxford Dictionary of National Biography.


The files have been arranged into three series: A. Literary and working papers; B. Business and financial papers; and C. Personal correspondence. Folders have predominantly been retained as found; most of the items within the folders retain their original order and there has been no attempt to arrange items within folders chronologically (many items are not dated) or otherwise. Original cardboard and plastic folders have not been retained unless annotated and any duplicate material has been discarded.

Much of the material in the archive (especially the notebooks) demonstrate how the different strands of Mick Imlah's work (poetry, prose, criticism and review) and interests (namely cricket) were inextricably entwined. Similarly, there is evidence that Imlah's notes written at college and university were re-used and re-cycled throughout his career.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Given by Maren Meinhradt to the Bodleian Library in 2018.

Related Materials

Bodleian Library

  1. MS. Eng. c. 7339 - Eight letters and three notes from Mick Imlah to John Fuller, with autograph and typescript poems, c.1981.

Magdalen College, University of Oxford

  1. John Florio Society archives.

Leeds University Library, Special Collections (Brotherton Library)

  1. MS 20c Armitage: 7/TIM - Three letters from Mick Imlah to Simon Armitage, 1994-1995, n.d.
  2. MS 20c Hill/5/1/36 - Three faxes from Mick Imlah to Geoffrey Hill, 1994.

British Library

  1. Add MS 88984/8/6 - Autumn 1988 Poetry Book Society Bulletin, including correspondence with Mick Imlah, 1988.
  2. Add MS 88984/10/6 - Papers relating to the Poetry Society's Poetry Review, 1981-1986.
  3. Add MS 89065/7/10 - Two postcards from Mick Imlah to Peter Dale, 1998-2000.
  4. Add MS 89140/1/26 - Letter from Mick Imlah and Tracey Warr to George Barker, 1984.

University of Reading Special Collections/The Penguin Random House UK Archive and Library

  1. Archives of Chatto & Windus Ltd.


  • Mick Imlah, Selected Poems (2010).
  • Hamid Khanbhai and Tom Richards (eds), Oxford Poetry: in memoriam Mick Imlah, volume XIII number 2 (Dec 2009).
  • AndrĂ© Naffis-Sahely and Robert Selby (eds), Mick Imlah: Selected Prose (2015).
  • Robert Edward Selby, 50 Poems & The Fire of Belonging: The Life and Work of Mick Imlah and the influence of the work on my poetic development (Doctoral Thesis, 2015).
Catalogue of the archive of Mick Imlah
Finding aid prepared by Rachael Marsay
Language of description
Script of description
Catalogued with the generous support of the Roy Davids bequest

Repository Details

Part of the Bodleian Libraries Repository

Weston Library
Broad Street
Oxford OX1 3BG United Kingdom