With grateful thanks to my tutor, John Gage, artbooks by Thames and Hudson, the public library in Norwich, Colin Raban, and a viva with Sir Alan Bowness, I managed to gain a 2:1 degree in Fine Arts, and graduated from UEA in 1970.
However, all my thoughts and interests were with poetry, and I was captivated by the ‘poetry scene’ in London, largely influenced by the BBC’s ‘Mr Poetry’ – George MacBeth. We went to poetry readings and publishers’ launches together. He took me to meet sensational and adorable Stevie Smith at her home at 1, Avondale Road, Palmer’s Green. ( see Tea with Stevie ). I also met the poet, Fleur Adcock, whose work I also admired greatly.
I remember in 1969 that he even took me out to lunch on Wednesday, 28th August, and then again on Friday, 30th August – the day before my ill-fated marriage to Andy should’ve taken place. George was always there to comfort me . He had true empathy.
This came in part from/ because of his own doleful love-life. He was then still married to an eminent physician, but protected her from his other numerous extra-marital liaisions, especially his painful relationship with the South African poet, Jeni Couzyn.
Years later, he married twice again. Once to the writer, Lisa St Aubin de Teran, with whom he had a son, Alexander. I remained friends throughout these times with George until his agonisingly painful death from motor neurone disease in 1992, aged only sixty. It is hard to endure that this energetic, enthusiastic and vibrant man,, who encouraged so many young poets, could suffer so terribly at the end of his life.
I still have numerous letters, billets-doux, books and postcards from dear George, spanning many years. And I am glad that a handsome edition of his ‘Selected Poems’ has just been brought out by Enitharmon, sensitively edited by Anthony Thwaite, his great friend, and with a warm tribute to him by Carol Ann Duffy in her preface, because he was a greatly original and true poet in every way.