Obituaries: Derek Stanford

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The Independent Online

I feel bound to add to James Fergusson's scholarly obituary of Derek Stanford (9 January), since I had been acquainted with Derek since the early 1970s, when I joined his Poetry Writing Class at the City Lit in London, writes Julie Whitby. He didn't merely "subsist" in this capacity; as tributes from some of his ex-pupils avow, he was a brilliant lecturer, working by encouragement rather than overt criticism. James Berry (one-time winner of the National Poetry Competition) and dozens more benefited from his inspired instruction.

Although his friend Robert Nye wrote that he would never become famous, he was not without fame in the Forties: apparently Evening Standard placards once read "Stanford on Herbert Read".

Stanford's take on the Muriel Spark affair was that he wrote to all the literati asking for cash for her when she believed she was being poisoned by T.S. Eliot, so that she might recuperate somewhere. When he dumped her, she pursued him down Kensington High Street shrieking the clichéd "I gave you the best years of my life!"

He became an extremely modest and spiritual man in his last years. He had resumed writing poetry when our relationship began years ago, and after nearly losing his life in 1999 he concentrated solely on writing fine poetry, published in the Times Literary Supplement and elsewhere. As well as the two Beardsley books mentioned by James Fergusson, his last published verse collection was The Memorare Sequence (Poetry Salzburg, 1997). His was indeed an Indian summer: he was composing poetry and working on a short story right up until his death.

Further, although he published no single book of ghost stories, his "erotic" tales of paranormal experience are in 15 ghost-story anthologies, and he believed that they contain some of his most original work.