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Elizabeth Jennings was born in Boston, Lincolnshire in 1926, and lived most of her life in Oxford, where she moved in 1932. She was educated at Rye St Antony and Oxford High School before reading English at St Anne's College, Oxford, where she began a B.Litt., but left to pursue a career in copy-editing in London. Returning to Oxford to take up a full-time post as a librarian at the city library, Jennings worked briefly at Chatto and Windus before becoming a full-time poet. Her second volume of poetry, A Way of Looking (1955), won the Somerset Maugham Award, which allowed her to travel to Rome, a city which had an immense impact on her poetry and Roman Catholic faith. While she suffered from physical and mental ill health from her early thirties, Jennings was a popular and widely read poet. She received the W.H. Smith award in 1987 for Collected Poems 1953 - 1985, and in 1992 was awarded a CBE. She died in Rosebank Care Home, Bampton, in 2001 and is buried in Wolvercote Cemetery, Oxford.

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