Thursday, April 26, 2012

Jeremy Hilton & the FIRE project

After 35 issues over a period of 17 years, English poet and editor-publisher of the poetry journal, Fire, Jeremy Hilton, has packed it in, leaving him more time to concentrate on his own poetry and also on his musical compositions in the European classical tradition, the  most recent of which was performed last month at Lauderdale House in London. Author of 10 published collections of poetry, he is one of Britain's best poets, with appearances beginning in the early 1970's in the now legendary 20 issues of Poetry Review edited by Eric Mottram.

I can't be objective about Fire having first met Jeremy in 1976 when Allen and Elaine Fisher invited me to accompany them on a journey up North to see Jeff Nuttall, and to stop off on the way to visit with Paul Buck and Glenda George, and Ulli Freer.  In recent years, Jeremy and I have become good friends, and he has published my own work, poetry and essays (once as a Guest Editorial), in many issues, well over 30 pages, in the print journal, including the final number, and in six of the dozen or so issues he's put online. (see - #'s 26, 17, 12, 11, 9, 8).

However, it is fair to say that Fire was as much a Project as a poetry journal.  Most issues ran to well over 250 tightly packed pages, and Jeremy idealistically refused all grants from Arts funding bodies, preferring to finance each issue from his pension as a social case-worker.  He accepted new work by more previously unpublished poets (and "emerging" poets) in the 17 years than any other editor in the history of English small press publishing, and in each issue published the work of schoolchildren/teenage poets alongside the poetry of old-timers like myself.  As Jeremy had written, his aim was to publish poetry which "doesn't fit within the narrow stereotypes of so many magazines."

In fact you'd be hard-pressed to name very many UK innovative/experimental/"unorthodox"/ poets who did not appear in the mag at least once or twice, and there were many "regulars" among the usual suspects besides myself: Colin Simms, John Welch, Chris Torrance, Harry Guest, Owen Davis, to name but five.  Jeremy was also more open to submissions from the U.S. than most other British editors, and the list of distinguished American poets he published includes Adrian C. Louis, Lyn Lifshin, Philip Levine, Barbara Guest, and others less-well known like the late Albert Huffstickler.

Double Issue 29/30 (The International Issue) ran to 400 pages of work from around the world, in English and in translations from poets including Anselm Hollo, Jonathan Griffin, Anthony Rudolf, Joseph P. Clancy (translating Bobi Jones), Thomas Land (translating Radnoti), Ketaki Kushari Dyson (translating Buddhadeva Bose), and many many others.

Like others approaching 3 score and 10, Jeremy has been slowed some by health problems; however, he and his longtime partner, Kim Taplin, poet and prose eco-warrior (and mother-in-law of journalist/author Luke Harding), continue their birding activities from the old farmhouse in rural Oxfordshire.

Blessings and best wishes to my friend on the successful completion of his project.

(from London, April 2012)