My lifelong friend Marcus Cumberlege, who has died aged 80, was a prolific poet. He lived in Bruges, Belgium, for 46 years. Earlier he had had several poetry collections published in the UK. Another 20 collections were to follow in Bruges by the time his Selected Poems (1963-2009) was launched at the city hall in 2010.

Born in Antibes, France, Marcus was the son of Nancy (nee Wooley), a Canadian, and Mike Cumberlege, later a decorated Royal Navy officer who worked for Special Operations in the Aegean. Mike was captured and eventually shot by the SS in the Sachsenhausen concentration camp, Germany, two months short of the allied victory in Europe. Marcus, aged nine, collected his father’s medals from King George in 1947. Mike’s ghost was to remain with Marcus all his life.

Marcus showed a precocious gift for poetry at Sherborne, where at 16 he received a long personal reply from TS Eliot to his own questioning letter about the poet Rimbaud. After studying English and French at St John’s College, Oxford, graduating in 1961, Marcus went on to win an Eric Gregory award for promising young British poets in 1967, adjudicated that year by Ted Hughes.

In the following decade he had four collections published in the UK by Anvil and Carcanet. Yeats, Pound, Neruda, Vallejo, Lorca and César Calvo were among his early influences.

Marcus travelled widely in Europe, South America, Canada and Japan; he was fluent in French, Spanish and Dutch. In the late 1960s he lived in France, Peru and western Ireland, teaching English and always writing. In 1965 he married Ava Paranjoti. They had a daughter, Eunice, before the marriage ended in divorce in 1969.

Later, in London, Marcus met Maria Lefever, whose family were from Flanders. They settled in Bruges, marrying there in 1973. Marcus did translation work and taught adult classes. He was the official English translator at the Europees Poëziefestival, Leuven, for several years in the 1980s.

But it was his poetry that drove him. He wrote every day and used to refer to his poetry in later years as his “walking stick”. Much of his adult life was beset by alcoholism and manic depression. He dealt with both courageously, drawing strength from his family, his friends and Japanese Shin Buddhism, of which he was a devotee for his last 20 years.

A decade ago he wrote the prescient short poem At Eighty. The final stanza reads:

I think I’ll get there one day at a time,
Losing some minor defects on the way,
Slowly but surely learning how to live
In realms of light beyond my wildest dreams

Marcus is survived by Maria, Eunice, and a granddaughter, Julia.

John Weston (h 56)