Gavin Selerie obituary

Other lives: Lecturer and writer whose poetry mixed verse with original academic analysis

My friend Gavin Selerie, who has died aged 73, was a writer whose collections of poetry included Azimuth (1984), Roxy (1996), Le Fanu’s Ghost (2006) and Hariot Double (2016).

Favouring long-form verse, Gavin liked to think of his volumes as research projects that involved original academic analysis. Le Fanu’s Ghost, for instance, was based on family history of the Irish writer Sheridan Le Fanu, while Hariot Double brought together his wide-ranging knowledge of the Renaissance with his love of music and a fascination with London by juxtaposing the Elizabethan-era polymath Thomas Harriot with the modern jazz saxophonist Joe Harriott.

Between 1979 and 1983 Gavin also conducted and published his Riverside Interviews, a series of book-length conversations with poets and playwrights, from Allen Ginsberg and Jerome Rothenberg through to Tom McGrath, some of which took place at the Riverside Studios in Hammersmith, west London.

Issue 1 of The Riverside Interviews, in which Gavin Selerie spoke at length to the poet Allen Ginsberg
Issue 1 of The Riverside Interviews, in which Gavin Selerie spoke at length to the poet Allen Ginsberg Photograph: from family/unknown

Born in Hampstead, north London, to Peter Selerie, a wine merchant of Italian extraction, and his wife, Muriel (nee Lee), Gavin was educated at Haileybury school in Hertfordshire. He went on to study English literature at Lincoln College, Oxford, and then undertook research on Renaissance literature at the University of York.

Afterwards Gavin taught creative writing at the University of London extra-mural department (later part of Birkbeck College), remaining there from the 1980s until his retirement in 2004.

Apart from his more lengthy volumes of poetry, he also wrote shorter sequences such as those brought together in Elizabethan Overhang (1989), Tilting Square (1992) and Collected Sonnets (2019). In addition his work appeared in anthologies such as The New British Poetry (1988), Other: British and Irish poetry since 1970 (1999), and the groundbreaking Reality Street Book of Sonnets (2008).

Some of his other work was collected in Music’s Duel: New and Selected Poems, 1972-2008 (2009) and he also wrote critical works on other poets, beginning with a study of Charles Olson in 1980.

In addition Gavin collaborated with a number of other writers, including the poet and visual artist Alan Halsey, with whom he wrote Days of ’49 (1999), a celebration of the year of their birth. He also teamed up with David Annwn and others on the poetry collections Danse Macabre (1997) and The Canting Academy (2008).

Gavin was diagnosed with glioblastoma in 2022, but before his death was able to complete a memoir, Edges of Memory, detailing his experiences on a 1968 trip to the US.

He is survived by his partner, the poet Frances Presley, his sister Clare, a nephew, Peter, and a niece, Gemma.

Robert Hampson

The GuardianTramp

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