poet, born in London, educated at University College, Oxford, where he won the Newdigate Prize. His first collection, mostly lyrical in character and showing the influence of Larkin, The Pleasure Steamers (1978), was a great critical success and was followed by Independence (1981); Secret Narratives (1983), containing a sequence of short narrations; Dangerous Play (1984), which brings together selections from his first three volumes with new poems and an autobiographical prose piece, ‘Skating’; Natural Causes (1987); Love in a Life (1991), a narrative in which the stories of two marriages gradually emerge and coalesce; Salt Water (1997); and Public Property (2002). The Price of Everything (1994) contains two long poems, ‘Lines of Desire’ and ‘Joe Soap’. He is the author of biographies of Larkin (1993) and Keats (1997), and two novels, The Pale Companion (1989) and Famous for the Creatures (1991). Since his appointment as poet laureate in 1999 he has published and broadcast many poems on public issues, ranging from war in Iraq to the marriage of Prince Charles in 2005.