My partner Sue died five weeks ago today. I’m not ready to write about her at length – I’ll be writing the introduction to her final collection of poetry, What to do Next, which she completed in April, when I feel up to it. However I know that people will come to this website looking for information, so here’s some. Our dear friend David Almond has written Sue’s obituary for The Guardian, and done a beautiful job. Thanks also to Graham Lester George, who snapped the accompanying photo, which captures Sue so well, while we were chatting in our garden not so very long ago. There have been an overwhelming number of tributes on facebook and twitter, capturing what a huge influence Sue had on her students, emerging teachers, and young poets over her forty-year career in Education. We were together during all that time, after meeting on a PGCE course in 1983. Sue never wanted to get married, but we had a civil partnership by special license in our garden four days before she died. That made her last days happier for us both.
Sue’s memorial celebration will take place on the afternoon of November 5th in University Hall on Nottingham’s Shakespeare Street, with some of her favourite poets and musicians taking part. I’m grateful to NTU, where she worked for the last few years and where I’ve been working part-time for 21 years, for hosting the event, more details of which will follow. There are numerous tributes to Sue on the internet, showing how widely she was loved, revered and respected, and there’ll be time to capture all this at the memorial event, but, for now, our family is mourning and I may be slow in responding to messages. I appreciate all of the support I’m getting from so many close friends and family.
To conclude, here are two more tributes, from our friend Patrick Limb, who succeeded me as chair of Nottingham UNESCO City of Literature (Sue was very proud of our achieving that status and played a large part in the process) and this from Clare Brown, who worked closely with Sue at Inspire (Nottinghamshire Libraries) and is now the director of Bromley House Library, where we’ve been members since 1997. You can see the Poetry Places exhibition that Sue curated and created at Stapleford Library now and, later, at Bromley House, with an online version and tribute here. Sue’s good friend and long-time collaborator Anthony Wilson has written a lovely tribute to her on his website. Gary Snapper, a dear friend, wrote a fine tribute for the NATE (English Teachers National Association) website here. This warm UK Literacy Association tribute has a good summary of Sue’s research work this century and this NAWE (National Association of Writers in Education) tribute demonstrates her generosity and hatred of elitism. ‘Poetry is not a special club’. Finally, to know more about Sue’s work and read some of her poems, her own website is here.
The photo above is from the early 90s and was taken by our friend, singer/songwriter Liz Simcock, in the garden of the first house we owned together, in Bobbers Mill, Nottingham. The one below is from our first visit to one of our favourite places, Venice, in January 1999. Always looking forward, Sue had booked for us to go back there next year as a big treat, travelling on the Orient Express. It wasn’t to be because, after seven years of illness, her secondary breast cancer was no longer treatable. A defective BRCA2 gene took her, as it did all of the women on the maternal side of her family, of whom she was the last, which is a mercy. The gene wasn’t discovered until 1998 but Sue knew her family history. She was determined to make the most out of her life and did so up to her very last days. She knew how much she was loved. Is loved. I don’t know what I’ll do without her.