Friday, February 17, 2012

Geoff Stevens (1942-2012)

Geoff Stevens at Barlow Theatre, June 2001, photo © Gerald England

The funeral of an old friend takes place in Sandwell today.

I first met Geoff Stevens in 1985 at the First National Convention of Poets & Small Presses in Liverpool. He had been editing Purple Patch since 1976 and I'm sure we'd exchanged magazines many times but the convention in Liverpool was one of the first times that small press editors had got together to meet each other and their contributors. These annual conventions continued at various locations around the country for over a decade and Geoff was certainly there at most of them.

In 1999 Geoff hosted the first Purple Patch Poetry Convention at the Barlow Theatre in Langley, West Midlands. The internet was still in its infancy then but I'd developed a website and hosted a report of the convention on the site, including a small photogallery of some of the poets who attended. I did the same for the conventions he held in 2001 and 2002, although I wasn't able to attend the latter.

These pages were discontinued after a few years but I've been able to retrieve them from an archive CD onto which I'd saved them. They are now republished at

Geoff was a stalwart of the small press publishing scene and always campaigning for its recognition by the establishment. I recall him writing letters to the Guardian and the Times promoting the strengths of small press poets. In 2008 he even got himself interviewed in the Guardian by Becky Barnicoat.

In 2009 he received the Ted Slade Award for services to poetry.

Most of those who knew him will remember his mordant wit and sometimes sarcastic but never acerbic reviews.

Geoff & Geraldine at Barlow Theatre, July 2002, photo © Eamer O'Keefe

A 2012 Convention at the Barlow Theatre was being planned even before he died and I understand it is still to go ahead on May 26th as a celebration of his life. Details will be found on the Geoff Stevens website which I've been told will continue to be maintained.

Reviews of some of Geoff's collections can be found on NHI Review.

There is an obituary for Geoff in the Wolverhampton Express and Star.

I miss him deeply.

Update Saturday: Just got the latest issue of Handshake in the post which includes 3 poems by Geoff Stevens. Copies are available for an s.a.e from John F Haines, 5 Cross Farm, Station Road North, Fearnhead, Warrington, Cheshire, WA2 0QG.

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