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

John in Early Autumn Neil Powell
WHAT GOT ME writing poetry, I’ve sometimes said, was the first edition of Alvarez’s anthology The New Poetry, the one with the raspberry-and-grey amoeba-patterned cover in those friendly old Penguin Poets; it was published in the spring of 1962, just after my fourteenth birthday. And I’d add that its most urgent prompting came from the poems of Thom Gunn, which were unlike anything I’d previously read. But I was forgetting something else about that book. At the end, very much as a coda, were five sonnets by a poet several years younger than anyone else in The New Poetry: ‘John Fuller (b. 1937) is doing research at New College, Oxford, where he won the Newdigate Prize in 1960.’ His first collection, Fairground Music, was already published, but too recently to make the biographical note. ‘Wow,’ I thought, ‘he’s still a student and already in a Penguin anthology! I’d better set to work.’ John Fuller had embarked, sooner than he might have guessed, on his lifetime of encouraging younger writers.

Like his father Roy Fuller, who published his first collection in 1939 and so wasn’t quite a ‘thirties’ poet, John found himself between readily identifiable literary movements: a good place to be in terms of creative independence, if less helpful for easy reputation-building. Those early sonnets hint at other similarities between father and son: a lifelong interest in poetic forms and extended sequences; a shared admiration of Auden, on whose work John would in due course publish a magisterial commentary; a tendency to seem personally reticent or even elusive, quite unlike the ‘confessional’ ...


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