‘Mick Imlah: His Life and Work’ Conference and Reading

Conference and Poetry Reading on 10 December 2010 at the Institute for English Studies, University of London, Senate House

By Anna Coatman


Mick Imlah was widely thought to have been one of the most talented poets of his generation; his early death in January 2009 is described by novelist Alan Hollinghurst as “an incalculable loss to poetry”. After his first collection, Birthmarks, was published in 1988 when he was 31 years old, no less than 20 years then elapsed before his second, The Lost Leader, was published in 2008, winning the Forward Prize and being short-listed for the T.S. Eliot and Griffen prizes . This November saw the posthumous publication of Mick Imlah: Selected Poems edited by Mark Ford with an introduction by Alan Hollinghurst. The book draws upon Imlah’s work from three decades, including uncollected and previously unpublished work (Faber and Faber; Paperback; 176 pages; ISBN: 9780571268818).

On Friday 10th December 2010, a conference, ‘Mick Imlah: His Life and Work’ was held at the Institute of English Studies, University of London at Senate House in Bloomsbury. The conference included many celebrated speakers such as Stephen Romer, Alan Jenkins, Bernard O’Donoghue and Helen Simpson to name a few. Topics covered ranged from Tennyson to Sport and Postcards.

The day-long conference was followed by an evening reading of Imlah’s poems. Supported by the University of London’s John Coffin Memorial Fund, Faber and Faber and the Times Literary Supplement, the reading was free of charge and open to the public. Poems were read by an array of Imlah’s family, friends and colleagues – Martin Amis and Andrew Motion among them. The reading began with a recording of the poet himself reading ‘Muck’ and later on ‘The Four Marys of Melrose’ was touchingly read by his young daughter, Iona.  The event was both a moving celebration of Mick Imlah for those who had known him, and a thought-provoking introduction for those only just discovering his work.

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