John Edward Glackin
5 May 1935
|Other names||Eddie S. Linden|
Eddie Sean Linden
Edward Sean Linden
|Citizenship||United Kingdom and Republic of Ireland|
|Alma mater||Catholic Workers' College|
|Occupation||Poet, political activist, magazine editor|
Eddie Linden (born John Edward Glackin; 5 May 1935), also known as Eddie S. Linden, is a Scottish poet, literary magazine editor and political activist. From 1969 to 2004, he published and edited the poetry magazine Aquarius, which, according to The Irish Post, made him "one of the leading figures on the international poetry scene". The journal was significant in the growth of British, Irish and international poets, and has been described as Linden's "crowning gift to literature — the nurturing and developing of poetic talent".
From City of Razors
A woman roars from an upper window
'They're at it again, Maggie!
Five stitches in our Tommie's face, Lizzie!
Eddie's in the Royal wi'a sword in his stomach
And the razor's floating in the River Clyde.'
from "City of Razors" (1969)
Linden was born as an illegitimate child to Irish parents in Motherwell, Scotland. He was baptised as John Edward Glackin, but became Edward Linden upon being adopted by Mary Glenn and Eddie Linden (the latter being related to his mother through marriage), whom he came to regard as his parents. He grew up in the mining town of Bellshill, 2 miles from Motherwell and 10 miles south of Glasgow. In 1944, Mary died, and her widower Eddie, a miner, remarried a Scottish Presbyterian woman who disliked the young Edward. She failed to have him put in an asylum, so instead had him sent to an orphanage run by the Sisters of Charity. He never knew his biological father Joe (Joseph) Waters, but did know his biological mother, Bessie (Elizabeth) Glackin. Linden was educated at Holy Family in Mossend and St Patrick's in New Stevenston.
At the age of 14, he was "released" from the orphanage, and often slept rough. He was put to work in a coal mine, and after being fired from this job, worked in a steel mill. He was also employed as a ticket collector and porter at Hamilton West railway station. Linden was rejected for national service conscription in the army as he was deemed underweight and suffered from a duodenal ulcer. Having been raised as a Roman Catholic, he also struggled with his homosexuality, and even sought medical treatment from doctors, but abandoned this after falling out with the staff.
Linden's political and literary awakening came when he joined the Young Communist League as a teenager. "At that time, the Communist Party had education classes - not just Marxist classes, but in Dickens, in Shakespeare - that was another discovery for me. Then there was the Workers' Educational Association. This was my way of getting away from that place and that life," he later recalled. According to his biographer John Cooney, "Linden sought freedom to explore his capabilities, away from what he felt were the dual Calvinist and Jansenist suffocations of the west of Scotland." Linden is said to have "wavered" in his communism following Moscow's suppression of the Hungarian Uprising of 1956. In 2001, he said he was "a lifelong socialist".
In August 1958, by then in his early 20s, the young Edward, who would be known as Eddie, moved to London to work as a porter at St Pancras railway station. That year, he met the Catholic priest Anthony Ross, who helped Linden come to terms with his homosexuality and encouraged him to take part in peace protests: he became involved with the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament and the Catholic Worker. This led to friendships with the journalist Douglas Hyde and Jesuit priest Thomas Roberts. Upon Ross's death, Linden wrote an obituary of him for The Guardian.
An April 1959 article by Hyde in The Catholic Herald outlined the origins of the Catholic Nuclear Disarmament Group, for whom Linden would become secretary. He later noted:
It was some time at the end of the 1950s when I first came across a little bookshop in Glasgow called the Freedom Bookshop. This was run by an eccentric Cockney, Guy Aldred, who was then editing a paper called Freedom. I saw a book entitled I Believe by Douglas Hyde. Also that day in that shop I picked up the American Catholic Worker produced by a remarkable person named Dorothy Day. The paper identified itself with the cause of peace and reconciliation. The book told a story of a man who had dedicated his life to Communism. At the time I was disillusioned but was still loosely attached to the Communist Party and the Young Communist League. These two items were to lead me back to a reconversion to Christianity of much greater social awareness.
In 1959, Linden arranged a meeting in Highbury Place for the Catholic CND which was attended by novelist Pamela Frankau, founder of the British version of The Catholic Worker Barbara Wall and John O'Connor, secretary of Pax Christi, the Catholic peace movement. According to Linden, "the whole idea was to publicise the immorality of the bomb": the group were affiliated the national CND, and a letter was sent to General de Gaulle to protest the French test explosion. The first Catholic banner was seen on an Aldermasteron March in 1959, with 200 people: 600 associate members were part of the organisation. By 1966, Linden had become less politically active, and gone to study at the Catholic Workers' College in Oxford. In an interview with The Tablet in 2017, Linden said, "I've been described as a Catholic atheist, but that's not right. I am a Catholic who finds it difficult to believe in God. There was a day when I used to run about with rosary beads and stuff like that, but I don't do that now." Meanwhile, in 1963, he co-founded the Simon Community, a charity in aid of the homeless, with Anton Wallich-Clifford, a probation officer at Bow Street Magistrates Court.
In his mid-teens, Linden joined the Independent Labour Party, which had disaffiliated from the Labour Party some years previously, despite having played a key role in the latter's early years. The ILP had lost all of its MPs by this point, and Linden describes it as having been "in its dying days". Speaking in 2019, he recalled, "The first political party I ever joined was the Independent Labour Party back in Glasgow". Speaking to The Tablet, he said "I was 14 or 15. The next year I went one better and joined the Young Communist League. That was a great thing when I was growing up in Scotland. All the miners and steel workers were Catholic, but they were also members of the Communist Party."
It was his involvement with the Communist Party that led to him moving to London, but after several years, he came to the realisation that he was not a communist. He would go on to join the Labour Party and, aged 84, stated, "I've been a Labour man all my life". In spite of his early inclinations towards the radical left, he did not support the left-winger Jeremy Corbyn, who led the party from 2015 to 2020, and voted for the centre-left candidacy of Sir Keir Starmer in the 2020 contest to succeed Corbyn. Linden declared himself "delighted" with Starmer's subsequent election as Labour leader.
Linden had begun to organise poetry readings at the Lamb & Flag in Covent Garden, and in 1969, he started the poetry magazine Aquarius, which featured emerging writers. He was helped by the poet John Heath-Stubbs, and a donation from his friend, playwright Harold Pinter; it has been said that Linden was the inspiration for the character of Spooner in Pinter's play No Man's Land. Fellow poets George Barker and Peter Porter also allowed their work to be published for free. The first issue featured contributions from Heath-Stubbs, Barker, Stevie Smith and Kathleen Raine.
The magazine was published every few years and ran to 26 issues in all. Amongst others, Aquarius published works by Seamus Heaney, Ted Hughes, Tom Scott and Kathleen Jamie. Writing in the Times Literary Supplement, James Campbell says that "the actual editing" was undertaken by figures such as Barker, Heath-Stubbs and Douglas Dunn, the latter being another Scottish poet. Linden raised the funds to keep the magazine going through the years, having started it with £4 capital and a loan from a friend. He was also helped by leading poet John Betjeman, who sent £5 for "good old Aquarius" every Christmas (adjusted for inflation, this sum of money would have been of higher value whilst Betjeman was alive).
A poetry reading at the Houses of Parliament was organised by Linden in April 1976, chaired by Labour MP Jock Stallard, featuring Heath-Stubbs and Dannie Abse, whose brother Leo was then a Labour MP. Abse's work was published in several editions of Aquarius, including the Welsh issue. A number of editions were similarly themed, including Irish, Scottish, Australian and Canadian issues; others honoured Heath-Stubbs, Roy Fuller, Hugh MacDiarmid and The Poetry of the Forties. Linden was also a member of the General Council of The Poetry Society for many years, and in 1990, he was elected to its Executive Council.
In 1991, the existence of Aquarius was said to be under threat, prompting a question in the House of Commons from Scottish Labour MP Brian Wilson to the Minister for the Arts, Tim Renton. However, this led to an Arts Council grant of £2000, and the magazine continued, with the publication of Aquarius Women in 1992. This special edition devoted to contemporary women's writing was guest edited by Hilary Davies, featuring contributions by Michèle Roberts, Jackie Kay, U.A. Fanthorpe, Carol Ann Duffy, Elspeth Barker, Marilyn Hacker, Helen Dunmore, Maureen Duffy, Fay Weldon and Elizabeth Jennings.
Profiling Linden for The Guardian in 1993, John Ezard commented, "For several generations of writers he has been part of the cultural furniture". During the period in which Aquarius was published, Irish broadcaster Frank Delaney said that Linden was "a butler to literature", and journalist Auberon Waugh called it the best poetry magazine in Britain. In 1991, it was reported that the Conservative Home Secretary, Kenneth Baker, was a subscriber. Linden edited Aquarius from his flat — which was described by The Guardian as a "spartan bedsit in Maida Vale" — until 2004. Throughout his activities in literature and politics, Linden was often known as Eddie S. Linden, the middle initial standing for "Sean".
A Festschrift, Eddie's Own Aquarius, edited by Constance Short and Tony Carroll, was published in tribute to Linden himself in 2005. Marking his 70th birthday, it featured tributes from friends and contributions from writers who had appeared in the magazine, amongst them poets Seamus Heaney, Alan Brownjohn, Roger McGough, Dannie Abse, Brian Patten, Elaine Feinstein, Alasdair Gray, Paul Muldoon, Tom Paulin, illustrator Ralph Steadman, politician Clare Short (a cousin of the book's co-editor Constance), artist Craigie Aitchison, academic Sir Bernard Crick, former CND chair Bruce Kent, writer James Kelman and emeritus Poet Laureate Sir Andrew Motion. Heaney, who knew him in London, dedicated 'A Found Poem' to Linden.
From Hampstead by Night
Comfortable little suburb north of London
With its wooded heath
Where queers and heteros nest at night
Little girls in mini-skirts
Boys with long hair and pockets full of French letters
Preparing for a night's fucking
from "Hampstead by Night"
As well as publishing poetry in Aquarius, Linden also wrote and gave readings of his own poems, such as 'City of Razors', which recalls the sectarian violence of his youth in Glasgow. He had been writing verse since his teenage years, and after moving south, was encouraged by Barker and Porter. He had known Barker's son Sebastian at Oxford, and in 1965 met his mother, the writer Elizabeth Smart, who adopted him as a protége; she was complimentary about the letters Linden wrote, and after Smart's death, he remarked that "She was a mother to me." He was also friends with the novelist (and subsequently Hollywood screenwriter) Alan Sharp, who based the character of Sammy Giffen on Linden in his book The Wind Shifts, published in 1967.
In 1980, City of Razors, a collection of Linden's poems, was published. It won praise from Pinter, Gavin Ewart and Lord Longford. Reviewing the collection, The Guardian said that Linden "can be seen to be a poet who shares with Paul Potts a quality of trusting helplessness before the world, a rare and moving state of awareness." In April 1981, continuing his commitment to the renewed anti-nuclear movement, Linden appeared at Poets against the Bomb, an event staged by Kensington and Chelsea CND at Chelsea Town Hall. In a line-up that included performances by Pete Brown, Ivor Cutler, Gavin Ewart, Adrian Henri and Harold Pinter, Linden read his poem 'Hampstead by Night'. Sponsored by the Greater London Arts Association and the Arts Council of Great Britain, it was filmed and is thus a rare example of Linden's performance preserved for posterity. The film was premiered at the London Film Festival.
The Penguin Book of Homosexual Verse (1983) included another of Linden's gay-themed poems, 'A Sunday in Cambridge'. A second volume of his poetry, A Thorn in the Flesh, was published in 2011. Linden has given readings of his poems on BBC One, BBC Radio 3, BBC Radio Scotland, Radio Clyde and LBC Radio. He has also given live readings at venues in Scotland, Ireland, England, Wales, Paris, New York City, Canada and Boston.
Tributes and cultural depictions
Who is Eddie Linden, a biography written by Sebastian Barker, with illustrations by Ralph Steadman, was published in 1979, covering the story of Linden's life up until the launch of Aquarius. It later inspired a stage play of the same name, which was produced in 1995 at The Old Red Lion in Islington, North London. Written by William Tanner, the play starred Michael Deacon as Linden, receiving good notices and playing to packed houses. It co-starred Dallas Campbell as a young man trying to get his poetry published by Linden, and ran from 28 February to 25 March 1995.
In June 1975, Linden was the subject of a portrait by Harry Diamond, who captured Soho artists on camera, and in October 1985, he was photographed by Granville Davies. Both prints are now held by the National Portrait Gallery in London. In late 2005, the award-winning photographer Eamonn McCabe took pictures of Linden.
Linden's 80th birthday was celebrated with a party at Conway Hall in 2015, at which he recited several of his poems. Barker's widow, the poet Hilary Davies, described Linden as "loyal and non-judgmental", and, comparing him to a meerkat, said he was "sociable, communicative, ferreting in corners for choice morsels and then delighting in showing it to the community". He was presented with a portrait of himself by London Irish artist Luke Canavan.
- City of Razors and other poems, Jay Landesman, 1980
- A Thorn in the Flesh: Selected Poems, Hearing Eye, 2011
- Catholic Church and homosexuality
- List of English-language poets
- List of Scottish poets
- List of Scottish writers
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