A British poet and novelist, he is best known for such poetry collections as The Less Deceived, The Whitsun Weddings, and High Windows. His works of fiction include A Girl in Winter and Jill.
He was educated at Oxford and, upon graduation, began a thirty-year career as a librarian.
He declined a 1984 offer to become English Poet Laureate because he did not believe that he was producing poetic work of any significance.
He was involved with a number of women (often simultaneously) until he met partner Monica Jones. His relationship with Jones lasted from 1978 until his death in 1985.
His poems were influenced by the work of W.H. Auden.