Michael Horovitz’s final New Departure

the street lamp
at dawn
and reading
the branches
a map
of sky
space –
pure light

From the sequence ‘Light Motifs’ by Michael Horovitz. (“Sequence of themes for chanting & possible counterpoint with music or birdsong or other sounds; several voices could repeat ‘light’ & other phrases in tonal, melodic, rhythmic variation.”)

Michael Horovitz. Photo: Hayley Madden for The Poetry Society

We are very sorry to report that Michael Horovitz OBE – poet, editor, artist, translator and anarcho-troubadour – died yesterday at St Mary’s Hospital, Paddington, aged 86.

An indefatigable proselytiser of a freeform, jazz-inspired, radical poetics, Horovitz’s guiding spirit was William Blake, and his approach was endlessly multidisciplinary. In 1959, he founded the ground-breaking New Departures magazine while still a student at Oxford University, publishing William Burroughs, Allen Ginsberg, Jack Kerouac and other leading lights of the counter culture. He also fronted in inimitable style the Live New Departures events that he developed as an offshoot of the magazine, and the Jazz Poetry SuperJams and Poetry Olympics festivals that followed. He was an energising force behind the celebrated International Poetry Incarnation at the Royal Albert Hall, London, on 11 June 1965, at which he made a celebrated appearance alongside Adrian Mitchell, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Burroughs and Ginsberg.

Horovitz was the author of twelve books, most recently A New Waste Land: Timeship Earth at Nillennium (New Departures, 2007); a new and selected, Wordsounds and Sightlines, was published in 1994. He was editor of the celebrated anthology Children of Albion: Poetry of the Underground in Britain, published by Penguin in 1969. Its successor, Grandchildren of Albion: An Illustrated Anthology of Voices and Visions of Younger Poets in Britain, was published in 1992.

He collaborated with countless artists and musicians. In 2014 Gearbox Records released Blues for the Hitchhiking Dead (Jazz Poetry Superjam #1), vintage recordings of the Jazz Poetry troupe with whom Horovitz toured the UK in the 1960s. In celebration of his eightieth birthday, Gearbox also released Horovitz’s 2013 collaboration with Paul Weller, Damon Albarn and Graham Coxon, Bankbusted Nuclear Detergent Blues (Jazz Poetry SuperJam #3). Alongside musicians Vanessa Vie, Annie Whitehead and Peter Lemer, he was a member of the William Blake Klezmatrix Band, playing an instrument of his own devising, the ‘anglo-saxophone’. An exhibition of his Bop Art paintings, collages and picture poems, continues at Chelsea Arts Club, London, until 25 July.

He was married to the English poet Frances Horovitz (1938–1983). Our thoughts are with Michael’s son, Adam, his dear friend Vanessa Vie and the many people for whom he meant so much. Everyone at The Poetry Society will miss him hugely.

Michael Horovitz, 4 April 1935 – 7 July 2021

‘Light Motifs’,  from Wordsongs & Sightlines: New & Selected Poems by Michael Horovitz (Sinclair-Stevenson, 1994), is reproduced with kind permission.

8 July 2021