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Simon Curtis obituary


My friend Simon Curtis, who has died aged 70, was one of the small band of people who work tirelessly, for no pay and few thanks, to promote poetry. An excellent poet himself, he edited two magazines and helped many struggling writers into print.

His heroes were Wordsworth, Hardy and Causley. His own poetry, which rhymed and was perfectly accessible, was distinguished by, in his words, its "shrewd, ironic and Horatian tone". It ranged from accomplished light verse, which was often very funny, to deeply affecting poems about family bereavement. He appeared in the Faber Poetry Introduction 6 (1985).

Simon was born in Burnley, Lancashire, the son of Susan, an English teacher, and the Rev Douglas Curtis, a vicar, and grew up in Northamptonshire. Armed with an English degree from Cambridge University, and a PhD from Essex, on Darwin as writer and scientist, he became a lecturer in comparative literature at Manchester University. He was active in the Hardy Society, editing the Thomas Hardy Journal for several years, worked quietly for the Campaign to Protect Rural England, and spent a lot of time caring for his mother, who lived to a great age.

Eventually, he moved to Plymouth and in 2010 took over from me as the editor of the little magazine The Interpreter's House, which he made, in Hardy's phrase, "a house of hospitalities". We were both determined that it shouldn't be just a platform for the editor's friends but should be open to good poets of all stripes.

But early in 2013 all plans had to be shelved as this active outdoor man was diagnosed with incurable cancer. Though paralysed below the waist, he remained positive, continued to watch the yellowhammers outside his window and never allowed his many visitors to feel downhearted. Shoestring Press rushed out a volume of his new and selected poems, Comet Over Greens Norton, which contains all his best work.

Simon was old-fashioned in the best kind of ways, a former 1960s student who canvassed for Labour but who dressed conservatively and retained a stiff upper lip and immaculate manners. He hated pollution, literary infighting, and public greed and waste. He loved bird-watching, football, woodcuts and the Lake District.

He is survived by his niece, Jo, and nephew, Richard.

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