Fenton was educated at Magdalen College, Oxford University, where he studied with the poet John Fuller. In 1969 he received the university's Newdigate Prize for poetry. He has written for The New Statesman, The Guardian, the Times Literary Supplement, the New York Review of Books, and the New York Times Book Review, among numerous other magazines.
Fenton's books of poetry include Children of Exile (London 1983, New York 1984), Out of Danger (1994) and Selected Poems (2006). A self-styled "pupil of W. H. Auden," Fenton has been dubbed "the major English poet of his generation." From 1994 to 1999 he served as Professor of Poetry at Oxford, a high distinction. He has edited books of poems by Coleridge and D. H. Lawrence.
For more about James Fenton's poetry go here, and for prose go here. Read David Lehman's brief appreciation of James Fenton here.