I was very sad to learn today of the death of Jon Stallworthy, who did so much for First World War literary studies.
He was the external examiner for my doctorate, and I treasure the memory of the afternoon I spent being gently but meticulously questioned about my thesis by someone who knew so much about the subject.
Too ill to attend the conference banquet at Wadham College last September, he was the guest of honour in absentia, but sent a stimulating (indeed, challenging) speech that Tim Kendall read for him. It as about truth in poetry, and about the need to make a stand against war.
Jon Stallworthy was a fine critic of war poetry, as is shown by his Survivors’ Songs: From Maldon to the Somme.
More than that, he was, of course, a poet himself. This is a short poem of this that I like very much. It is from his 1995 collection, The Guest from the Future:
For Daphna Erdinast-Vulcan
What’s in a name? For you, and now for me,
the echo from a sepia century
of soldiers’ boots in a ghetto lane,
pounded doors, the census-taker’s refrain:
‘What are you?’ Baker.’ ‘Tailor’ And the flash
of rabbinical wit – ‘I am earth and ash.’