The London Magazine is delighted to launch the Grey Gowrie Poetry Prize 2021/2. The prize, named in the memory and honour of our esteemed Special Literary Adviser, Grey Gowrie will be launched in October.

In Memoriam | Grey Gowrie (1939-2021)

The London Magazine
and all associated with it are deeply saddened to learn of the death last Friday of Grey Gowrie (1939-2021). We wish collectively to pay condolences to his family and friends while we celebrate his extraordinary life and remember his long commitment to this publication. Grey, Lord Gowrie, had weaved together a career of extraordinary highs: first in academia, then in politics, and finally in the world of the arts. This was all long before a heart transplant, more than twenty years ago, spurred him, with strange good fortune, back into the writing of poetry. The voices of his early life, he said on his eightieth birthday, went quiet for a long time and then returned suddenly. As they did, he began to write again to remarkable effect, though he was insistent to point out, with his characteristically self-deprecating humour, that it was the brain that remained, and not the new heart, that was the fount of this late burst of inspiration.

It was twelve years ago, when he was seventy and long into retirement, that he became Special Literary Advisor to the magazine, just as it was relaunched under the present editors and owner. Grey had an association with the magazine that dated back to the days of John Lehmann and, especially, Alan Ross, an old friend of similar sensibility. His influence upon the present publication has been measureless. He was our presiding figure. While he recruited writers and promoted our magazine tirelessly, he was also the guiding presence who reminded us of our responsibility to the publication as it had been. Moreover, he was present at countless of the events held in London over the past decade in our name. Most recently, he was the host at the poetry prize-giving at the Travellers Club in December 2019, just after his eightieth birthday and right before the pandemic struck. There, he amazed the audience with an ex-tempore recital of some of his favourite poets, including Herbert and Owen: two poets from the Welsh border on which he lived. He was a lord of literature in English: Scotsman by heritage, he was born in Ireland but lived in Wales and was married to a German. Our thoughts are with Neiti and Heathcote, both friends of the magazine. Time spent with Grey was unique and magical. We will honour him in our work.  

Words by Matthew Scott

The following is a published piece from our April/May 2012 issue:

Grey Gowrie

After Eugenio Montale

The ancients say poems
are a ladder to God,
––––––––––––––Reading mine,
you may harbour a few
––––––––––––––But oh my darling,
I knew it was so that day
you gave my voice back to me,
when goats broke loose from somewhere
to slaver on thorn or marram
while clouds lost their bearings
and sun and moon exchanged 
unearthly looks with each other,
and our car conked out, and only
an arrow, a scrawl on a stone,
blood red, as if written in blood,
pointed us on our way
by road to Aleppo.

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