July 1st, 2021 – Guest Poet: John Stuart

John Stuart is chairman of Fire River Poets and in 2007 initiated this series of poetry events, which owing to the COVID pandemic are currently on-line.

He tells us that his parents met when servants (gardener and upstairs maid) at a grand Aberdeenshire house – and only moved to England in 1938, where they were eventually able to buy their own small farm. He was, however, not destined to be a farmer himself and went into educational administration as a career.

His experience of poetry at school was conventional until he read Eliot’s Four Quartets and decided he wanted to write, not just read poetry. He has never deviated from that wish since but, being a very private, undemonstrative person, he did not seek support or tuition until later in life. He read widely, though, in Russian, German and French as well as English. He published nothing until middle age, having become in his own words, ‘a late developer’ after moving to Taunton in 1995, where he attended his first (and only) creative writing course in his 50s.

He still does not promote himself or his work to any significant degree but in spite of that has poems published in magazines and a single competition prize to his name, alongside the two published collections Word of mouth (Oversteps 2009) and All in a day (privately published in 2019) both of which were very well received.

His reticence is in stark contrast to his energetic, spare and often forthright poetic voice. His latest venture, yet to be published, is a collaboration with artist Norman Steel called Drawing on the natural. It is a series of poems and life drawings on the subject of pregnancy. This is his first collaboration but will not be his last. He and Norman are already planning a further project in the future.

Recent comments on some of John’s work:

(Of Word of mouth)
“This is slow release poetry, evocative, thoughtful and thought-provoking. It’s a pleasure not often experienced to read poems which have the precision and quiet wit of good conversation.” M. R. Peacocke
“Like one of his poem’s characters, John has ‘a good eye and steady hands’ when it comes to writing poems … there is a careful measure and music here, and a sensibility attuned to the seasons and their changes” Andy Brown

(Of All in a day)
“The poems brought this wonderful game to life with affection, knowledge and humour, and John  Stuart’s accessible approach will draw in non-cricket lover and aficionado alike. He has found a perfect line and length and many vivid moments in this admirable collection.” Graeme Ryan
“This unique set of poems is no enthusiast’s paean to the joys of the game, but rather a poet’s immersion in the whole cultural phenomenon of cricket. … The resulting tone is often wry, often affectionate, but there is no linguistic flab here: the poets language is as taut as a well-made bat.” Anthony Watts
“Encompassing such niche considerations as gun bats, spectator etiquette, chauvinism and the amateur game, these poems should appeal to cricket fans in general, as well as providing a gateway for poetry readers into the civilising game.” Matt Bryden

John has been interviewed twice, by Paul Tobin in 2014 [Click here to read] and this year by Anthony Watts [Click here to read].