On having allies

Four disused mannequinns stand in a line against the bare wall of a closed down shop

I once heard a senior British poet warming to a riff during a reading on the topic of the acknowledgements pages in recent collections of poetry. He had noticed that there was a ‘trend’ for these to conclude with long lists of thanks to other poets. ‘Whatever happened to autodidacticism?’ he asked. The disapproval in his voice was unmistakable.

My own view is that allies are essential in any walk of life. Why should poetry be any different? All that seems to have happened is that poets (though novelists do this too: look at the generous list of thanks in all of Ali Smith’s novels and short story collections) are now more transparently open about naming their friends and networks of support in print than was the case, say, twenty years ago.

The allies in my writing life are a really mixed bunch. Distance and time being what they are, I rarely see all of the people I am about to thank in the space of one calendar year. As the old joke goes, I see most of them around once a century. (Some, I have yet to meet face to face.) The key to my knowing the weight and grace of their support in my life is that, visible or not, they are there, somewhere on my shoulder, or just behind it, as I write. Some, I will speak to on the phone. Some, I will text. Some drop me the occasional email. However infrequently we make contact, they all need, in Robert Pinsky’s phrase, ‘answering’, albeit fleeting, and not always directly. What I do know is that I could not write (let alone do this) without the feel of their friendship.

For your support this year, I say thank you to

Amy Shelton, Andrew Rumsey, Ann Sansom, Chris Southgate, Colin Mallett, Gwenllian Riall, Helena Nelson, Jim Harris, John Foggin, Josephine Corcoran, Kester Brewin, Louis de Pelet, Lucy Runge, Luke Bretherton, Martin Wroe, Maura Dooley, Michael Laskey, Olwen Goodall, Peter Carpenter, Peter Sansom, Rachel Griffiths, Rebecca de Pelet, Rob Mackenzie, Shawna Lemay and Sue Dymoke.

Thank you above all to Tatty, Merenna and Shimi.

Finally, thank you to all of you who read, subscribe to and comment on this blog. You also sit on my shoulders as I type.

Wishing you all a joyful and peaceful new year, and see you in 2023.


  1. Cock, You’re welcome. Always. Happy new year. Cock x

    Dr Jim Harris Andrew W Mellon Foundation Teaching Curator

    University Engagement Programme Ashmolean Museum of Art and Archaeology University of Oxford <x-apple-data-detectors://1>Beaumont Street<x-apple-data-detectors://1> Oxford OX1 2PH<x-apple-data-detectors://1>

    +44 (0)1865 288 288+44%201865%20288%20288 +44 (0)796 885 3328+44%20796%20885%203328


    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.