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This article is taken from PN Review 233, Volume 43 Number 3, January - February 2017.

John Fuller Andrew Motion
I WENT UP TO OXFORD in 1970, and because no one on my father’s side had been to university before, and my mother’s family were largely unknown to me, I felt I had a lot of catching up to do. I felt nervous as well, which meant (among other things) that it took me a while to pluck up the courage to write to Roy Fuller, then Professor of Poetry, and ask to meet him. He of course agreed immediately, and suggested we had a cup of coffee at his son’s house in Benson Place, in the not-very-northerly part of Oxford known as North Oxford.

This would have been in 1972, I think, and by this stage I’d read a lot of John’s poems. I’d heard a lot about him, too – mainly from Alan Hollinghurst, whom I got to know around the same time and whom was quickly becoming my best friend. But I’d never actually met him. I was at University College, not John’s college Magdalen, and I wasn’t that keen on (or any good at) the literary quizzes that might have drawn us together elsewhere. But now there he was, looking on while I drank my coffee with Roy. I don’t think we spoke much. I felt so anxious throughout the whole encounter, poring over some dreadful poems I’d sent ahead of me, I doubt that whatever I did say to either of them made much sense.

It wasn’t that Roy was frightening; on the contrary, he was extremely courteous. And neither did John come across as formidable; it was more that he ...

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