1959: Still at school, fancying myself a poet, attending a sixth-form literature conference in London, I see you read. Your hair flopping forward, tall and strongly built, and with only a script in your fist, you take almost the stance of a boxer who fears being toppled. Looking down to your feet, I observe that you have tensed your toes inside your shoes, forcing them into the carpet. (This detail is almost all I remember.)
a voice full of consonants rises
the whole room follows that raptor eye
through verse that rolls the world itself in such an eye
in identification with jaguar pike fox otter
each creature fully sleek or shaggy by turn
the animal kingdom climbs into consciousness
feet go down through the podium floor
as if to reach for the earth’s core
1971: My student, Jill Lewin, posts you a set of the striking prints she has made using eight of your poems. She has placed the poems within bright abstracted figures suggested by their subject matter (a formalised jawbone for ‘Relic’, ragged wings for ‘Crow Blacker than Ever’…) and printed them in a selection of different inks on variously coloured papers. Your sister-agent sends Jill an officious and barbed letter saying that the prints infringe copyright and she must destroy
all existing sets. Still fancying myself a poet, I write directly to you, telling you that Jill, young and perhaps over-sensitive, is distraught. That she, too, is an artist, of much promise, that her prints, conceived without commercial purpose, constitute not just an interpretation ...
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