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

The Florio Society Tom Cook
AMONG OTHER THINGS, I owe John Fuller my love of high-quality paper. That’s not a sentence I would’ve imagined myself writing in 2010, aged seventeen, when I first read his name in Christopher Hitchens’s memoirs. (Good paper featured there, too, in stories about the Sycamore Press’s very limited-edition pamphlets of explicit verse.) Nor would I have guessed that my copy of his New Selected Poems, bought at that time, would have ended up inscribed by him in a dauntingly ornate room in Oxford. The surrealism was not eased by the fact that, the first time I met him, John was seated directly beneath his own portrait…

Magdalen’s summer common room, home to most of the John Florio Society’s meetings during my time at Oxford, I now think of a welcoming place, and the alignment of the other John F. with his wall-hung likeness turned out to be a coincidence of seating arrangements; his is one among many depicting the college’s celebrated fellows, including the former Professor of Poetry, Seamus Heaney. (I had worried that some arcane Oxford law meant Fuller had to be enthroned in this terrifying tribute to himself: a high-end repeat of a pub I once visited in Humberside, where regulars sat beneath their own oil portraits.)

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The Florio, which John has helped steer since the 1970s, is aware of tradition. Meeting each week of the Oxford term, the society’s round-table format has encouraged the work of dozens of noted poets since its inception, including Bernard O’Donoghue, Mick Imlah, Jon Stallworthy and James Fenton. Poems are ...


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