Poets in Prison

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Poets in Prison is Delia's name for Poetry from Prison in which poems written by people in prison, many awaiting the death sentence, are set to music.

It was produced by Edward "Ted" Lucie-Smith who also translated some of the poems,[1] and performed at the 1970 City of London Festival[2] in June-July.[3]

ELS sent Delia a series of suitable poem texts on 30th January 1970, and paid her for her work on 21st July 1970.

Delia's papers contain musical note sequences for

as well as some scores not yet associated with their poems.


The following subsections group her papers according to the poems they relate to:

Anne Boleyn

"O death! rock me on sleep, / Bring me on quiet rest;" ...

Earl Rivers

"Somewhat musing / And more mourning..."

Edward II

"On my devoted head / Her bitterest showers..."

Chidiock Tichborne: Elegy For Himself

"My prime of youth is but a frost of cares; / My feast of joy is but a dish of pain;" ...

Elizabeth I: Written On A Wall At Woodstock

"Oh, fortune, thy wresting wavering state / Hath fraught with cares my troubled wit..."


House of the Man Athirst

by Miguel Hernandez, translated by Edward Lucie-Smith.
"I am desert sand, / dearth of thirst..."

James I of Scotland

"When I lay in bed alone waking, / New partit out of sleep a little tofore,..."

Lullaby of the Onion

by Miguel Hernández[4]

Delia's notes suggest that her music for this consists of two tunes: Tune I and Tune II.

Mary Queen of Scots

Delia's papers contain the texts for two of Mary QoS's poems:

  • "Alas! what am I! and in what estate?..."
  • "O Domine Deus! Speravi in Te..."

and note sequences for the second of these. For details, see Mary Queen of Scots.

Richard Coeur de Lion

Sir Thomas Seymour

"Forgetting God to love a king / Hath been my rod, or else nothing..."


Nazim Hikmet: That's How It Goes

"Am in the middle of a spreading light, / my hands inspired, the world beautiful." ...


"Old age in the villages, / heart without a master"

Waters of Babylon

Unidentified scores

These papers have note or chord sequences or conventional score but we don't know which poems they're for:

  • DD102650 Note sequences: "Eb C D B Eb C D B / On rot ten shore All fight storm tune pours[?]..."
  • DD103733 Note sequences: "C G A A F G" "Ev. time ch tae in th..."(?)
  • DD103841 Manuscript "Intro"
  • DD103908 Manuscript "Intro: The sky above the roof top is blue..."
  • DD104304 VCS3 dope sheet "POETRY FROM PRISONS" effects "FISHES 1" "FISHES 2" "WHALES"

Other papers

The whole folder of these papers can be viewed here.

  • DD101920 "Poetry from Prison /75"
  • DD101929 "Poetry from Prison /76"
  • DD101950 Letter from Ted to Delia dated 30th January "Herewith a batch of photostats to brood on"
  • DD102148 Letter dated 21st July 1970 to Delia "herewith cheque for Poetry from Prison..."
  • DD102201 Notes: "Library make-up tape / 1.Superflumen / 2.monks / 3.low vroom..."
  • DD102357 General notes
  • DD102422 Notes: "Timetable - ASK ELS - SOUND F/X"
  • DD102435 Notes: "Tape treatment"
  • DD102454 Notes: "Timetable - Lute Chittaronte(?)"
  • DD102821 Letter dated 27 Feb. to Delia "How are things going?"
  • DD103720 Notes: "Sung & played: Richard Coeur de Lion, Edward II, Francis, Titchbourne. Played (acc.t): Ann Boleyn" + list of pieces: "Anne Boleyn: only accompaniment"
  • DD103921 Notes: "Do: Treat Hedley" Quomodo..." / "I caught myself in my instrumental strings"
  • DD103934 Letter dated Friday 26th June to Delia "Herewith a full script of the programme..."
  • DD103951 Notes: "VCS3 for high phrases" "Fish p.47" etc.
  • DD104011 Table headed "Poem - Tape 1 - Tape 2"
  • DD104036 Table headed "T1 - T2" "1a Wind for Superflumen"
  • DD104046 "Id[?] keep still / wind etc down to final level" "Start 237"
  • DD104112 Letter dated 24th July 1970 from Hedley to Delia: "Thank you for your recent letter - I have enclosed your cheque"
  • DD104153 Handwritten poem text: "Even such is time which takes in trust / Our youth, and joys and all we have..."
  • DD104226 "Fx M/U": Table headed "POEM - TAPE1 - TAPE 2 - TAPE 3 - NOTES"



  1. DD104100: "War" translated by Edward Lucie-Smith.
  2. Kirstin Cubitt's article Dial a Tune
  3. The City of London Festival takes place over two to three weeks in June and July.
  4. Lullaby of the Onion on poets.org