Bertie Lomas was a dear man and a dear friend and we were very saddened to learn of his death on Friday 9 September 2011 after a short spell in hospital. We knew and admired Bertie for many years, as a poet, a translator and a critic, and were delighted when he came to Arc in 2003 with his new book The Vale of Todmorden, a sequence of short poems by way of a personal history of the Pennine town of Tomdorden of the 1930s, his place of birth and home for the first decade of his life (and also, of course, the home of Arc Publications.
Some six years later, we were proud to publish his collected poems A Casual Knack of Living and launch it at the opening of the 2009 Aldeburgh Poetry Festival, with Bertie as the Guest of Honour -- a truly memorable evening.
We shall miss him -- miss his Christmas cards, his e-mails and his phone calls (less frequent in recent years, but always welcome) -- as will his many friends the world over.
'In the Old Black Swan' from The Vale of Todmorden, by Herbert Lomas
Everything has always been
just like this: the bobbled tablecloth,
the prickly black chaise-longue,
the rain, the cotton mills,
the canal with its tadpoles,
sticklebacks and water-beetles,
the stone towpath, the black hawthorns,
and the early-morning clogs under my window.
They've always clacked by in the dark
at six o'clock every day. It's always been like this.
I'm on the sideboard, drumming dents
with my heels, then I crawl the floor
with my cattle and sheep, walk the lead dog
over the fields to my farm,
raise and lower the drawbridge on my fort.
I'm the besieger and the besieged.
(The Black Swan public house in Todmorden is is where Bertie Lomas lived as a young boy. It is still open, though very much changed.)