Steven Tuohy, John Western and Me

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In browsing and revisiting my poetry books, especially from the past, I have dusted off these entirely personal works and recall fondly those early days of my poetic beginnings.

I came across the work of Steven Tuohy whilst we were both at college. A local writer, his work with Suffolk artist John Western was concerned almost exclusively with water and birds: Steven writing that muscular, descriptive poetry of Hughes [and a little of Gunn] so popular and influential at the time; John with his pencil drawings of the Suffolk landscape as well as the birds. Their two books that I have are Migrations, self-produced 1972, and Estuary, Oxford Polytechnic, 1977.

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I was a novice, and Twelve Poems is both my first ‘published’ work and an example of a naïve style: trying to ape some of Steven’s crisp captures of the natural world while at the same time transmitting, oddly, an archaic style – a love of the Romantics and a fair degree of 1970’s poetic romanticism where I couldn’t even spell ‘oscillate’ correctly, but the meaning was all that mattered…

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Steven and I self-published, and though I have not been in contact since then nor able to find any more recent information online [John Western drowned in the River Deben in 2003], I am grateful for the support he gave me at the time, not least allowing his mature work to appear with my fledgling attempts. As Chairman of our college Literary Society I remember we used our funds to pay for the cover, and printed from a Gestetner [or similar] for the inserts – I was also involved in producing the college magazine – and I recognise the typeface from my typewriter of the time where a bit of nous and Typex on the stencil could have sorted that spelling error. Money for the sale of the pamphlet went to a charity.

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