So there I was on Saturday night in Auckland at the Unity Books 21st birthday party, truly an occasion for celebration. It wasn’t huge – everyone there was a genuine and long-term friend of the shop – so after the (very good, and not just because they were brief) speeches there was lots of catching up with old friends and even some young ones.
And then Randall Jarrell, the great American poet and critic (Robert Lowell called him “the most heartbreaking English poet of his generation”) and one of my all-time literary heroes, came over to say hello. Well, obviously it wasn’t him because he died in October 1965, but it was definitely his beard. It quite threw me for a second.
And then I realised that behind the beard was VUP publisher Fergus Barrowman. I guess if anyone in New Zealand is entitled to wear Randall Jarrell’s beard, it’s Fergus.