Resuming this blog after a long break it is sad that the subject of my first post should be the death of the poet Roger Langley, who died suddenly at his home in Suffolk following a heart attack on 25th January. When I spoke to him on the phone a couple of weeks or so ago he sounded energetic and very positive – he was just getting to the end of a course of medical treatment – and his death came as a great shock.
Roger was one of those life-changing schoolteachers. He taught English and Art History at secondary schools in the Midlands and it was Nigel Wheale, a close friend and former pupil, who became his publisher, bringing out ‘Hem’ (1978) and ‘Sidelong’ (1981) under his infernal methods imprint. There was also a pamphlet from Equipage, ‘Jack’, which appeared in 1998. Then in 1994 Nigel published ‘Twelve Poems’ which attracted the attention of Carcanet who went on to publish two collections, ‘Collected Poems’ (2000, and published jointly with infernal methods) and ‘The Face of It’ (2007). This latter includes the poems I had published in ‘More or Less’, which was the last thing I did under the Many Press imprint. There was also a pamphlet, ‘Twine’, which came out from Landfill in 2004.
Roger was among other things a very accomplished draughtsman and there is an extraordinary intensity of seeing in his work, whether engaging with varieties of natural phenomena or with painting. This is evinced everywhere in his ‘Journals’ which appeared regularly in PN Review and in collected form from Shearsman (2006). And there’s an interview, first published as a pamphlet by Peter Riley and then included in Angel Exhaust, which gives a remarkably open and detailed account of his poetic method and practice.
A friend of Prynne’s from student days, a particular talent of Roger Langley's was to combine some traditional English preoccupations - landscape and natural history, visiting country churches - with a rigorous modernism. He was still very much occupied with writing - a poem Nightingale appeared recently in the London Review of Books - and will be sorely missed as a writer and as a friend.