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

An Apology Jonathan Keates
Dear Sir,

I’m writing to apologise for not having sent you a contribution to the John Fuller festschrift.

The fact is that I feel I don’t have anything original to say or an original way of expressing what I should like to say, which is that while I was an undergraduate he was an outstanding encourager and enabler of my early writing, that he and his family became my friends and that he has remained somebody for whom, in whatever sense, I always write, whose ear connects with my voice and with whose particular sense of humour I engage in my head as I write.

It’s impossible for me to express what I feel about John and how much I admire what he does. His versatility and originality as a poet seem to me massively under-appreciated. Don’t people know what a stupendous artist this is, for Christ’s sake? He has poetry under his fingernails, at the roots of his hair, in the marrow of his bones.

I wish I had some means of saying what it is that he has meant to me since he was first my tutor at Magdalen – would I have read Gay’s ‘The Shepherd’s Week’, Garth’s ‘The Dispensary’ or Young’s ‘Night Thoughts’ without him, I wonder? – and then as doyen of the Florio Society, not to speak of our annual trio-sonata-playing sessions at Christmas with Sophie, Louisa and Emily. Part of everything I do as a writer is inflected by him.

But I just can’t put this into any form worthy of inclusion ...


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