'A daring, funny, inventive writer': fellow poets pay tribute to Grant Tarbard

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Many tributes have been paid on social media to the poet and editor Grant Tarbard, who has died suddenly at the age of 43, after suffering from ill health throughout his life.

The poet George Szirtes said: “This is terribly sad and unexpected. Grant was such a fine, daring, funny, inventive writer with a taste for the gothic. He was also good with graphic, comic, haunting images. He was an original and a dear man.”

Another leading poet, Helen Ivory, said: “Most of us will know him as an absolutely brilliant poet and an intelligent, very funny off-kilter presence on these walls. I know I will miss him.  I already miss him.  We will organise some kind of memorial in time, but right now everyone is still in shock.  Love, light and peace, as Grant would say x.”

Grant Tarbard was a poet and artist, former editor of The Screech Owl magazine, co-founder of Resurgant Press, a reviewer, and an editorial assistant for Three Drops From A Cauldron. He was the first runner-up aged 16 in Ottakar’s / Faber National Poetry Competition. His poetry collections were As I Was Pulled Under the Earth (Lapwing Publications), Yellow Wolf (Writing Knights Press), Loneliness is the Machine that Drives the World (Platypus Press) and Rosary of Ghosts (Indigo Dreams).

Talking about Rosary of Ghosts in an interview in 2017 he said: “Really, it’s about my stroke in December 2012. Let me take you through a brief history of my time—I had dialysis at 19; my nerves were shot and my bones were almost crumbling … and I had to use a wheelchair throughout all of my twenties. I had a badly needed transplant at 33 and then — miraculous hallelujah — I was walking. Then I had the stroke two months later, as God is cruel, and it was back into the wheelchair. I think I haven’t come to terms with it still, and this book is me trying to make amends with my situation.”

He launched his magazine The Screech Owl online, and then had to postpone the print version for a year after suffering his stroke. The launch finally went ahead at the Poetry Café in London in January 2014.

Grant Tarbard was born in Basildon, Essex, and spent his life there. He went to Mill House infant and junior school and Laindon High Road senior school, now demolished to build houses “which he was not impressed with”, his mother Sue said. He suffered ill health from the age of 18 months, and spent 13 years on dialysis from the age of 19. In September 2012 he had a kidney transplant, and in December 2012 he had a brain bleed, causing a massive stroke.

He was a devoted fan of Arsenal, and a season ticket holder. He was also known for his generosity towards other poets. In 2017 he appeared as a guest reader at the launch of collections by Rodney Wood and Kitty Coles at a refurbished Poetry Café.

He died in his sleep between Monday 4 and Tuesday 5 April. His mother Sue said: “On Monday husband, Callum and I were all with Grant, had a meal, watched the football (although a bad loss again!). Grant was so well and happy.” He is survived by his parents, and his son Callum.

His poems in Rosary of Ghosts were described by the poet Martin Figura as “threaded through with pain; the gentle and abiding love in them carries us through”. 



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John F Keane

Wed 13th Apr 2022 14:37

His inspiring story makes me realise how lucky most of us have it, to be blunt.

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Stephen Gospage

Mon 11th Apr 2022 17:27

I did not know his work but it is so sad that an obviously courageous and talented person has left us. My condolences.

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M.C. Newberry

Sun 10th Apr 2022 15:42

Although not familiar with this writer and his work, I feel compelled to remark on his courage in adversity during a life
that was far from benevolent in matters of health...that most
precious of gifts. To continue to create and commit to creativity
in such circumstances denotes a singularly brave determined spirit whose departure must leave the world a poorer place.

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