James Fenton was introduced several years ago to an audience at a university lecture hall as "one of the finest poets writing in the English language today." On that day, Fenton read "Jerusalem" and other poems and I was impressed enough to buy his book and get in line to have him sign it for me at a book signing immediately following the lecture.
Later, I found out to my satisfaction that it was the author Ian McEwan who had endorsed Mr. Fenton, in an interview with National Book Critics Circle, as follows: "There is a strong case to be made that James Fenton is the finest poet writing in English. His technical virtuosity is beyond doubt; his long experience as war correspondent, journalist and traveller has given him an unmatched range of subject matter - war and revolution, the dementia of collective passions, reflections on fate, and love - he has written some of the most beautiful love poems of our times. He is a poet of great emotional depth and wisdom. Increasingly, his work has a strong connection with song. He also has a taste for light verse of exquisite charm and humour. He is a modern master."
Here's "Jerusalem," read by Fenton. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EBqhz6XU81s
"Skip," also read by Fenton. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1TWZY14tGsU
"What Would the Dead Want from Us" http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-D3KcWVfQS8
He has written a slim book on English poetry. http://m.weeklystandard.com/Content/Protected/Articles/000/000/002/105dc...
William Jay Smith says in this interview http://www.cprw.com/Misc/wjsmith.htm that one of the British poet-critics in whom he takes particular interest is James Fenton, that he and John Updike are among the poet-critics that he most admires and that "both are fine poets, superb art critics, skilled writers of light verse, and both have a polished prose style."
The more I listen to his poems, the more I like them, so perhaps there is something to be said about his poetry.