He was born on in Hensingham, Cumberland, England. After briefly studying law at Selwyn College, Cambridge, he completed a psychology course at Birkbeck, University of London, before going on to study English at University of Durham. After graduation he moved to London and became involved with the Soho literature circuit. He held a Gregory Fellowship in poetry at the University of Leeds between 1956 to 1958. He was married three times, with his second wife Rosalie de Meric he had a daughter, Julia Blackburn. He died from a cerebral haemorrhage in Wales.