Reporter 412, 15 December 1997


Obituary

Jon Silkin

Jon Silkin died on 24 November

The University will be sorry to learn of the death of the poet Jon Silkin who died unexpectedly in Newcastle on Tyne. Jon Silkin had close connections with the University of Leeds. He was appointed as the Gregory Fellow in Poetry from 1958 to 1960, and took his BA as a mature student in the School of English in only two years, 1960-62. During that time he continued to edit the magazine Stand, which he had founded in 1952, and, with Andrew Gurr, who was then on the School’s staff, set up Northern House Pamphlet Poets. He left for Newcastle in 1964, but retained links through the pamphlet series. In 1994 he was appointed Senior Fellow in Poetry, giving seminars and readings in the School of English. The archives of Stand became part of the Brotherton Collection in 1995.

Jon Silkin was born in 1930, and after National Service in the Education Corps spent six years as a manual labourer, during which time he founded Stand in 1952, beginning his lifelong role as poet, editor, and agitator for the integrity and importance of contemporary literature, both prose and fiction, in Britain, Europe, Israel and the USA. His first collection of poems The Peaceable Kingdom appeared in 1954, to be followed by many others. His Selected Poems appeared in 1980 and 1988. In the 1960s he undertook several poetry readings in the USA and was a visiting writer in America, Australia, Israel, Korea and Japan. He won the Faber Memorial Prize for his collection Nature with Man (1965) and was awarded the C. Day Lewis Fellowship in 1976-77. In 1986 he was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature. He was particularly interested in the poetry of the First World War and published The Penguin Book of First World War Poetry (1979) followed by an anthology of First World War prose (with Jon Glover in 1989) and an edition of Wilfred Owen (1985). His book on the subject, Out of Battle (1987), has become a standard work.

Above all, Jon Silkin will be remembered as a powerful and varied poetic voice and as a fierce and determined supporter of writers and writing.

John Barnard
School of English

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