Warm tributes have been paid to Roddy Lumsden, lauded poet, critic, editor, mentor and tireless reader, promoter and advocate for poetry, who died on 10 January 2020, aged just 53. Countless writers have taken to social media to express their shock and sorrow at this death, but also to express their profound gratitude to him as a poetry teacher and guide. “He mentored what seemed to be a generation of poets,” said Niall O’Sullivan. Amy Key, who said she was “heartbroken to lose my friend and mentor Roddy Lumsden”, republished online the list she compiled several years ago, when Roddy first became ill, of poets who wanted to express their gratitude for the enormous contribution he had made to their work; it is exhaustive. John McCullough described him “a wonderful poet, brilliant mind and generous soul”.
In a statement Roddy’s publisher, Bloodaxe, pointed to his “significant role in the development of Bloodaxe’s publishing over the past 25 years, not just through his own innovative collections and seminal anthology Identity Parade: New British & Irish Poets (2010), but probably even more so through his mentoring, editing and promotion of many of the younger poets we and other publishers have taken on over that time, many of these going on to receive far greater recognition than Roddy himself. Most of that work he did with other poets was unpaid and done purely out of friendship and dedication to the cause of poetry. He and his contribution will be greatly missed.”
Roddy’s widely praised collections include Yeah Yeah Yeah (Bloodaxe, 1997), shortlisted for the Forward Prize for the Best First Collection, and The Book of Love (Bloodaxe, 2000), shortlisted for both the T.S. Eliot Prize and the John Llewellyn Rhys Prize. Terrific Melancholy was published by Bloodaxe in 2011, Not All Honey (Bloodaxe) in 2014 and Melt and Solve (Salt) in 2015. So Glad I’m Me in 2017 was shortlisted for the T.S. Eliot Prize. He was the Series Editor of Salt’s The Best British Poetry anthologies. He was a long-time tutor for the Poetry School and was one of the inaugural tutors of its MA with Newcastle University. Roddy also had a long association with The Poetry Society as a Trustee, as a one-time editor of Poetry News (the hugely popular members’ poems competitions were his innovation), and as a co-author, with Stephen Troussé, of The Message, a Poetry Society publication exploring the links and differences between music and poetry. He was also a judge for The Poetry Society’s National Poetry Competition in 2014.
Roddy was regularly published in The Poetry Review, and his poem ‘Stone Tape Theory’, published in the spring 2009 issue, can be read here.
With a fascination for the trivial and the abstruse that was woven through and beyond his poetry, he also worked as a puzzle and quiz writer, publishing Vitamin Q: a temple of trivia lists and curious words (2004). Representing Scotland with crime-writer Val McDermid, he won the 2014 series of the notoriously cryptic Round Britain Quiz. He will be sorely missed.
Roddy [Roderick] Chalmers Lumsden, born St Andrews, 28 May 1966, died London, 10 January 2020.