This article is taken from Stand 217, 16(1) March - April 2018.

Sarah Prescott Reuniting Correspondence

Reuniting Correspondence: The Letters of Jon Silkin, Lorna Tracy and Merle Brown

The Archive and Library of Jon Silkin is one of the major literary research resources held at Leeds University Library’s Special Collections. It is apt that it be here, given the strong links with other collections, from the Stand Magazine archive itself, to the literary archives of many of Silkin’s collaborators, including Tony Harrison and Ken Smith.

The Silkin Archive is particularly rich, containing an often dazzling number of drafts for poems (as the editors of the Complete Poems discovered), and correspondence. Silkin’s Library is equally fascinating, both for its breadth and the traces of his readership. Many books were heavily annotated by Silkin, with documents – sometimes relevant, sometimes not – inserted.

Tracing literary correspondence can be a frustrating experience for researchers. Paradoxically, an archive will not usually include the correspondence of its creator, which can be scattered across many collections or held in private hands. The Silkin Archive is a good example of this phenomenon, containing a large series of letters written to and kept by him, but little of his own correspondence.

Having held the Silkin Archive since 1995, Special Collections was very lucky to be offered, in 2015, a series of letters written by Jon Silkin and Lorna Tracy to Merle Brown. Brown was an academic, critic, and founder of the Iowa Review. The letters were kindly donated by his widow, Carolyn, and complement ...
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