I learned about Julia’s death last Saturday [16 April] while I was in Peru. My partner had e-mailed the news to me, she had cried on learning of Julia’s death, and both I and my travelling companion were deeply saddened. Julia’s life had some how touched our own.
I first encountered Julia and her work in 1989. Although I was introduced to Julia a number of times by friends who had worked with her, I think it is more than fair to say we did not know each other. She may have vaguely recognised me, like one does with strangers one repeatedly encounters. I was more than gratified that Julia did acknowledge some vague recollection of me on a couple of occasions.
I was a bit in awe of Julia. Even on our first meeting, I remember I blustered on about how wonderful her poetry was, and seconds after felt entirely crap about how engraceiating I must have come across as. Subsequent encounters were a lot less profuse, I tried to act kind of cool while my heart was fluttering.
Over the years I have seen Julia read on a number of occasions, I have attended her plays, read her books and listed to her work on the radio. A meagre poem of my own even shared pamphlet space with one of hers back in the late 80’s. For the last 7 years or so I have had one of her poems pinned up at work, The Shipping Forecast. So you could say I am a bit of a fan!
My own work is in the area of mental health, and I have mentioned Julia’s work as an example of the use of poetry as an aid and support for people to promote and direct their own well being. This is one of the powerful legacies which Julia has left.
My sympathy goes out to her family and all who knew her. As we all know she was much loved and she will be greatly missed.