I one met the supreme poet Tom Raworth. This was in England. I can’t remember the year, exactly. It was a Saturday, though, and we walked from his house for a long way, looking for a pub that wasn’t too crowded. He seemed like a nice fellow, as did his friend, the soon-to-be famous novelist Iain Sinclair. I remember being pleased that Raworth and I both had, unfashionable as it was, full chevron moustaches, though eventually we would abandon the look, around the same time. I remember, too, that as we walked, we often had to stop and wait for the spouses of Raworth and Sinclair to catch up a bit, for they fell far behind, small spots of pink and brown far down the river’s edge, their cigarette smoke hanging like little island weather over their heads. Finally, we came to a Guinness sign and some chairs. I bought everyone a few pints and even paid for everyone’s lunch, and this seemed to make everyone happy. I knew, of course, that Raworth and Charles Bernstein, whom I just mentioned, had been good chums for many years, so perhaps this accounted for what I sensed was Tom’s sheen of reserve, what with this and that. By and by, we said farewell, near Trinity College, and pleasantly enough, it seemed to me. Years later Tom would be an enthused supporter of a poetic-anarchist cell I had some dealings with, the fénéon collective, it was called, whose fait divers about him goes thus: With a healthy moustache, the avant-garde English poet T. Raworth stepped into a crop circle in the fields of Wiltshire. I swear to almighty God and the Queen, he exclaimed, I had a moustache when I stepped in, and now it is bloody gone.


– from I Once Met: A Partial Memoir of the Poetry Field, by Kent Johnson (Longhouse Books, 2015)