Title: Jon Silkin Archive
Classmark: BC MS 20c Silkin
Creator(s): Silkin, Jon (1930-1997)
Main language: English
Size and medium: 151 boxes; c.26 linear metres.
This collection represents the archives of Jon Silkin, the poet and founding editor of 'Stand' magazine. It comprises items relating to Silkin's career from the early days of 'Stand' (1952) and the publication of 'The Peaceable Kingdom' (1954), up until his death in November 1997. The papers in this collection include extensive manuscript and typescript drafts of Silkin's poems, both published and unpublished; papers relating to his work on translating contemporary poetry from Hebrew and Japanese; items relating to his interest in war literature, in particular the poetry of the First World War, and including papers for his critical work 'Out of Battle' (first published 1972); extensive ms and typescript drafts relating to Silkin's dramatic works, including 'Gurney'; and ms and typescript drafts of prose and other critical work, including extensive drafts for 'The Life of Metrical and Free Verse' (1997). There are additionally papers relating to work and activities undertaken by Silkin other than writing and publishing, including papers relating to fellowships and residencies in the UK and overseas, teaching and lecturing activities, and poetry readings; a small collection of audio-visual items featuring Silkin reading and talking about his poetry; and personal papers chiefly relating to Silkin's family.The largest section of the collection comprises Silkin's correspondence with writers and editors, publishers, academics, and others. Although the Stand Archive exists separately to the Silkin Archive, much of the correspondence held here relates to or refers to 'Stand' due to the inherent connection between Silkin and the magazine.
Jon Silkin was born in London on 2 December 1930. He was educated at Wycliffe College before being evacuated to Kent and then to Wales during the Second World War. He returned to London at the end of the war and attended Dulwich College, from which he was eventually expelled for truancy. Aged 17, he worked as a filing clerk and then a journalist; at 18 was called up for National Service, during which time he served in the Education Corps as a Sergeant Instructor. In 1950, shortly after being discharged, he published his first short collection of poems, The Portrait.
On leaving the Army, Silkin worked for several years as a manual labourer/unskilled worker, his jobs including a period working as a gravedigger. In 1952 he was fired from one of these jobs for attempting to form a Union; the 5 pounds redundancy money he received enable him to found and produce the first issues of the little magazine, Stand. Early contributors included poets who held or would go on to hold the Gregory Fellowship, including James Kirkup, Thomas Blackburn and William Price Turner; Turner had also started his own little magazine, The Poet, in 1952. Silkin was forced to cease production of Stand in 1957 due to lack of funds. In 1958, he was awarded the fourth Gregory Fellowship in Poetry at the University of Leeds.
This collection is arranged into the following subfonds (sub-collections): Poetry Collections and Published Poems Poetry Translations Uncollected Poems and Notebooks War Literature Drama Prose and Criticism Appointments, Lecturing, Teaching, Readings Correspondence Audio-Visual Items Personalia Miscellaneous / Research and Interest The Silkin Archive, prior to processing, comprised 60 large boxes of papers. Items in these boxes were initially listed as found, but the original order of boxes was not clear. The majority of papers were held in files, but there was also a siginificant amount of material that had been placed loose in boxes. The initial box listing showed that, generally, groups of related papers were dispersed across a number of files/boxes; and in many cases individual files contained a very diverse mix of papers. The decision was taken to bring groups of related papers together where possible without disrupting file integrity. For example, all drafts and other papers relating to published collections of poetry have been grouped together. Correspondence has generally been removed from files in order that letters to and from Silkin and others is held together, and can be read in sequence.
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Catalogues of archives are usually arranged in hierarchies - one hierarchy for each collection in the archive. The details on display will be of a record at a particular level of the hierarchy. There may be other records above, below, or alongside this record in the same hierarchy. You can see the full hierarchy under 'In this collection'.