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The Fathers

Jon Silkin, 4 November 1993

... A dog-lion’s haunched triangular fury guards the dead. He says, ‘several things: first I bite, then in death I guard you.’ ‘Besides, I don’t want it,’ I said. ‘Then forgive me.’ ‘I’ll guard my own death,’ I say. So then he bites me. Meanwhile a little swooning in the blood. I tell this dental fool, ‘I am the right, and fierce creature, the insects gnaw my veins, my newly rived flesh, I find the Jew in the scrolls, I nourish him,’ and I dispossess him like a father ...

Gypsy Moth

Jon Silkin, 2 February 1989

... A Gypsy Moth holds a castle of bruised rose in its sights, the engine beating like a moth’s wings, but the moths beat against or tumble over the walls, across beams of light, on glass, and in the windows – their sensors, their furred heads, winged bodies with a burning sense of the bulbs naked over the readers. Lightly they wipe their webbed flesh on our cheekbones, and we imagine ourselves winged ...
... For gas the house waters carbide, often meagre for burning, though our lungs cough up a shred of acid that we sicken on. Up at plastered stone, flaky and gravid, the sheep butt: smudged with an orange dye wool inside mist wastes at the mothy house. Then gas heaves. Quick, turn the spiggots, across their limp flow, igniting this powdery whiteness damped to gas, a flame that looms, raising a brightness edged in a dark blister to a light shaped like a woman ...

Paying for forgiveness

Jon Silkin, 18 December 1986

... In a Trailways, shaking over red clay, wild poor shapes hang in a sulky wind of glazed polythene. As we start, a child bellows softly, she mews at her mother’s breasts pressed up into the v of an ill-made blouse. The gaze is cheerful, her repose her daughter’s sleep, father unfolding in it like the soiled shapes of duster he cannot sell. The planted rows, the dead all men, their adversary stain bruised like mulberry on red clay ...


Christopher Reid, 15 May 1980

by Octavio Paz, Jacques Roubaud, Edoardo Sanguineti and Charles Tomlinson.
Penguin, 95 pp., £1.95, November 1979, 0 14 042268 4
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Kites in Spring 
by John Hewitt.
Blackstaff, 63 pp., £2.95, February 1980, 0 85640 206 0
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The Island Normal 
by Brian Jones.
Carcanet, 91 pp., £2.95, February 1980, 9780856353406
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New Poetry 5 
edited by Peter Redgrove and Jon Silkin.
Hutchinson, 163 pp., £4.95, November 1979, 0 09 139570 4
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... dad’s the only one keeps up his front. Congratulations to the anthologists, Peter Redgrove and Jon Silkin, for culling ...


Derek Mahon, 5 June 1980

by Christopher Middleton.
Carcanet, 120 pp., £3.95, February 1980, 0 85635 284 5
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The Strange Museum 
by Tom Paulin.
Faber, 51 pp., £3.50, March 1980, 9780571115112
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The Psalms with their Spoils 
by Jon Silkin.
Routledge, 74 pp., £2.95, April 1980, 0 7100 0497 4
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The Equal Skies 
by Norman MacCaig.
Chatto, 64 pp., £3.75, March 1980, 0 7011 2491 1
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Sibyls and Others 
by Ruth Fainlight.
Hutchinson, 141 pp., £5.95, March 1980, 0 09 141030 4
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... symbolically quasi-human and flickeringly active, as in a newsreel of the period. Like Middleton, Jon Silkin is very much his own man. An active propagandist for poetry, he nevertheless belongs to no ‘school’, although I would guess that somewhere along the line he absorbed the influence, for example, of the Minnesota poets, Robert Bly and James ...

Colloquially Speaking

Patrick McGuinness: Poetry from Britain and Ireland after 1945, 1 April 1999

The Penguin Book of Poetry from Britain and Ireland since 1945 
edited by Simon Armitage and Robert Crawford.
Viking, 480 pp., £10.99, September 1998, 0 670 86829 9
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The Firebox: Poetry from Britain and Ireland after 1945 
edited by Sean O’Brien.
Picador, 534 pp., £16.99, October 1998, 0 330 36918 0
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... and who surely exemplifies not only the ‘democracy’ but the ‘pluralism’ they refer to, is Jon Silkin. Having commended the growth of poetry journals and publishers outside London, both O’Brien and Armitage/Crawford proceed to ignore the poet who founded Stand magazine, and whose poetry and personal presence – both of them sane and principled ...

Snail Slow

Colm Tóibín: Letters to John McGahern, 27 January 2022

The Letters of John McGahern 
edited by Frank Shovlin.
Faber, 851 pp., £30, September 2021, 978 0 571 32666 2
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... The following year, he wrote to Madeline about an event he had done, attended, he said, by ‘Shit Silkin’, i.e. the poet Jon Silkin. When The Barracks was adapted for the stage by the playwright Hugh Leonard, McGahern wrote to his US editor: ‘The tart’s name is Hugh Leonard, did Stephen D. once, and several cheap ...

You Muddy Fools

Dan Jacobson: In the months before his death Ian Hamilton talked about himself to Dan Jacobson, 14 January 2002

... so often someone would buy the thing. A lot of this was going on in those days. The figure of Jon Silkin, for example, would arrive in Oxford with copies of Stand in a holdall and he would go round the colleges and people would condescend to him dreadfully. His forbearance and patience as he went about trying to sell it used to impress me. So I ...

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