David Selzer and I first got to know each other in 1965 through the University of Liverpool Poetry Society. Under David’s energetic leadership, in 1966 the Society brought a young Seamus Heaney and a young Michael Longley from Northern Ireland to read to us. This was some months before Seamus Heaney’s first collection, Death of a Naturalist, appeared from Faber, and at this point Michael Longley had published no more than a single pamphlet. Neither had read outside Northern Ireland. The third of the notable young Northern Irish poets to emerge during those years, Derek Mahon,
I read once – perhaps it was a quotation from José Saramago – that the writer’s life is the detritus left behind by the work. I’m not sure if that’s true, but it sounds better than any autobiographical introduction I can think up. I worked years ago in a steelworks, have a very longstanding interest in psychoanalysis and – perhaps it’s a reaction to all those clinics – now spend a lot of time outside. Here are three short poems which bear on these matters. Thanks to David for the chance to put them before you. At age 14 I found that we had a new English teacher called Mr Selzer,
I set out believing I was a reader, a collector of books. It was marvellous that the children I taught could write engagingly – and it would certainly stand them in good stead when they became readers too. Years into teaching, struggling with the burdens of so many unread books, I was plucked from the classroom and deposited in the National Writing Project, because I had been snared by word processing.
The Project had several key principles – one was that teachers of writing should be writers too. How can you expect them to, if you don’t? So I started to write,
The idea for the new section was inspired by A. P. Wavell’s OTHER MEN’S FLOWERS [https://www.theguardian.com/books/2005/oct/01/featuresreviews.guardianreview5]. It is designed to showcase other creative people whose work I like and admire.
The ‘flowers’ to date are: