Roy Fisher at 85: a celebrataion

by Simon Collings

Roy Fisher is a major figure in British poetry. At 85 he’s still writing, and a new volume of his poetry, entitled Slakki, will be published by Bloodaxe this autumn. Roy is hard to categorise. Suspicious of groups and ‘isms’, he’s always done his own thing. He was influenced by modernist writers from the USA and Europe but made of this something unmistakeably English, rooted in the experience of growing up in Birmingham. He took the nondescript as his subject and set about describing it. I love the individuality, quirkiness and playfulness in his writing.

Earlier this year I decided I wanted to celebrate Roy’s work while he is still alive, and asked poets Tom Pickard and Peter Robinson to join me in Oxford. Roy himself is now too frail to manage a journey from his home in Derbyshire. Both Tom and Peter have known Roy for many years and I was delighted when they agreed to take part in the event. Peter has edited several volumes of Roy’s poetry and prose, including working with him on Slakki. Tom first met Roy in the 1960s, and in 1991 made a documentary about Roy with funding from the Arts Council.

We opened the event with a screening of this film, Birmingham It’s What I Think With, Tom providing some background to how the documentary came about. Peter and Tom then read some of Roy’s work alongside poems of their own, work influenced by Roy or dealing with similar themes. Peter finished with a poem Roy wrote earlier this year – his most recent. I’m indebted to both of them for the generous amount of time they gave to this. I’m also grateful to all those who attended and for the interesting comments and questions during the discussion. Thank you too to Oriel College for the use of the Harris lecture theatre.

Roy Fisher’s collected poems The Long and the Short of It is published in the UK by Bloodaxe, and there’s a very nicely produced Selected Poems edited by August Kleinzahler published by Flood Editions in the USA. Tom’s collected poems Hoyoot is published by Carcanet and he has a new collection coming this summer. Tom also writes a blog. Peter’s Selected Poems was published by Carcanet in 2003. His most recent collection is Buried Music published by Shearsman in 2015.

Preparation

Last minute planning before the event.

Peter_reading

Peter Robinson reading from Buried Music

Tom_reading

Tom Pickard reading from Hoyoot

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