Friday, 5 February 2010

John Rety

I am sorry to find fellow editor John Rety, of Hearing Eye, has died. John was born in Hungary in 1930, coming to this country in 1947. Though he came to the notion of anarchism when he was 13/14 ("very late") he became seriously involved in the 1960s, becoming a member of the Committe of 100, and an editor of Freedom. He was a bohemian figure, a former partner of the writer Laura del Rivo, and was the first person to publish Colin Wilson, though he moved away from Colin Wilson as Colin moved to the right politically.

Since the 80s John was one of the key people at Torriano Poets and at Hearing Eye. He had an ability to pull in important readers to this scruffy little venue, none of whom were paid, and who were happy to rub shoulders with "readers from the floor" with all that meant. His press published Dannie Abse and others, actually about 200 publications in total, keeping them all in print. One of his treasures was the posthumous Selected Poems of AC Jacobs.

To everyone's amazement, given his anarchist views, John pitched up as the poetry editor at the communist Morning Star two or three years back, running a popular weekly poetry column which was collected in his Well Versed anthology, now in its second printing. He was thrilled by this, as it ran counter to his usual despairing cry that nobody ever wants to buy poetry.

John Rety would never win any well-dressed man competition. He was never the easiest person to have in a meeting but he did good work at all the organisations he worked with. Our condolences to Susan and Emily.


Ross Bradshaw said...

There is an excellent obituary in the current Camden New Journal: :

Anne said...

I've only just heard of John's death, by reading Harry Eyres's tribute in today's FT, of all places. The Telegraph also had a good obit. I wonder what John would have made of his coverage in the rightwing broadsheets. It doesn't appear that The Guardian has done him this honour yet. You'll probably have seen Ian Bone's interview with him on Youtube, so poignant to view now. But the best account remains Marius Kociejowski's lively and astonishing appreciation in PN Review 187, last May.

Ross Bradshaw said...

I've not seen the piece in PN Review. Is it on line somewhere. Very surprised that the Guardian did not do a review. The FT is not bad on cultural matters. Should I add the word "suprisingly"?

Anne said...

I don't think it's online. All I could find earlier was the reference on PNR's website to the actual issue it appeared in, which I hadn't been able to remember. It's quite a long article - several pages - and full of extraordinary picaresque detail. I've been hunting for my copy just now before replying; I'd love to read it again. If it surfaces I'll let you know. But it's worth the price of a back copy, I reckon.

The Guardian probably didn't do a review simply because no one proposed it. Both they and The Indy are up for reasonable suggestions - if you fancied writing one I bet they would carry it, even now. These things often run quite late.

Anne said...

PS. Apologies for ungrammatical comment earlier. (In haste.)

Re The FT - perhaps not so surprising. Readers are part of the core audience for opera, ballet and serious theatre. In their heyday, banks would host private views at the latest RA or Tate exhibiton. Poetry slots into their Serious Culture, Civilised folders. It's not so much Encounter territory, as the mindset that engendered the idea of funding it.

My "of all places" comment was more about the FT being a strange place to learn about John's death rather than a suggestion that they are philistine. (Talk about cognitive dissonance.) Harry has a regular column on the back page of their Saturday equivalent to G2, where he's given free rein to yarn about birdwatching or riding a bicycle. Always worth reading in there are Peter Aspden on popular culture, Jackie Wullschlanger on art, and the book reviews. They also publish a poem, usually from a recently published collection. Not bad for filthy capitalists.

Ross Bradshaw said...

Thanks, Anne, for your comments on the FT. I currently buy the Guardian, Morning Star and Nottingham Evening Post daily, plus the Indie on Friday for the books section so I don't think I can afford to add the FT on Saturday but I might have a shuftie throught it down the newsagents from now on. I'll also try to get my hands on the issue of PNR you mentioned.

Anne said...

Hi Ross

Very belatedly, I've unearthed that PN Review article. It's wonderful. I can send you a copy if you have been unable to track it down.