Jon Silkin, Complete Poems
, eds. Jon Glover and Kathryn Jenner (Northern House/Carcanet, 2015)
There is a contrast between the image of a young Jon Silkin hustling the early issues of Stand
around 1950s England – physically taking to the road to descend upon campuses, theatre queues, even restaurant diners – and today’s remote editorial performance via the unromantic superhighways of social media. As a digital immigrant, I can’t help but feel we’ve lost something. And a sense of loss attends first sight of this weighty monument to Silkin’s own poetic output. How can a poet whose work spanned almost the entire second half of the twentieth century slip so readily from public consciousness in the nineteen years since his premature death in 1997? Perhaps it is part of the poetic ecosystem, that one’s shelf life fluctuates both during one’s own lifetime and post-mortem. As Jon Glover notes in his Introduction:
[…]as so often happens, after his death his reputation has waned and his key reference point in post-Second World War poetry has almost vanished from recent textbooks and anthologies.
Perhaps, too, this is the dubious fate of an editor-poet, whose considerable academic reputation was also enough to distract from his creative output. In recent years, I’ve encountered a number of poets with stories to tell of Silkin’s editorial benevolence and encouragement of their early efforts. But rarely have I been engaged in a discussion of Silkin’s own work. This is a great pity, for, as this beautifully produced and impressively edited volume shows, ...
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