I met John when I went on a creative writing course organised by the Arvon Foundation and held at Lumb Bank in Yorkshire (once home to Ted Hughes). The course for me was the antidote to a year of studying which had finished with three months of research and writing my dissertation. I wanted a week where I didn’t have to conform to any academic rules and regulations whatsoever.
John was one of the tutors. I had no inkling about how to write poetry, and thought I would enjoy writing short stories much more. However, as the days went by, I discovered how wrong I’d been. One of the highlights for me was to hear everyone read out their poems. (And yes, no-one wanted to do that at first, but it became a really valuable part of the learning process.) One of the poems I found most touching was by someone on the course who suffered with tinnitus. His words were profoundly moving. Until then, I had given little thought to how debilitating and isolating the effects of this condition could be. By chance, John revealed that his father also had tinnitus, and that he’d written about it too in the poem I’ve illustrated.
(In a further co-incidence, it turned out that The Daughter’s boyfriend had been taught by John at university. As a birthday present, The Boyfriend proceeded to obtain a signed copy of Next Door, a collection of John’s poems which includes the one above. Major brownie points.)