Jon Stallworthy,  18 January 1935 – 19 November 2014: An Obituary

by Fran Brearton

The death of Jon Stallworthy has saddened all who knew him, and all who knew his work. His numerous books – his acclaimed biography of Owen, his edition of Owen’s Complete Poems and Fragments, his study Between the Lines: Yeats’s Poetry in the Making, or, most recently, his New Oxford Book of War Poetry – both set the standard for the scholarly criticism and editing of war poetry, and brought countless readers to a deeper appreciation of the work of some of the century’s finest writers. More than anyone else in the last fifty years, he has shaped and enabled our understanding of the poetry written across two world wars. He tirelessly promoted the work of others – as editor, as critic, and as friend. Yet he was also a gifted poet himself, a poet of both love and war. This is from his 2009 sequence ‘War Poet’:

Without you, I am learning
about death. It cannot be true
that you – you – you –
and my numbness turning

to anger. But however slow
the fire, however deep the seam,
it will burn out, they say, in time.
In time for what? Forgiveness? No.

Acceptance? How should I resign
Myself to knowing that you lie
Under another sky
In other arms than mine?

Fran Brearton