Obituary of Jacky Flurscheim | Poetry

My friend Jacky Flurscheim, who died at the age of 81, was poetry editor at Oxford University Press from 1976 until 1998, when, to her chagrin and fury, the list was closed without care. For many years she also ran the Thomas Tallis Society in Greenwich, south-east London.

Born in Altrincham, outside Manchester, Jacky was the eldest daughter of Honor (née Platt) and Charles Flurscheim, an electromechanical engineer with AEI (Associated Electrical Industries). She went as a boarder to St Felix’s School in Suffolk, a county for which she retained a lasting affection, later spending idyllic times at a cottage on the marshes near Blythburgh. At school, she thrived playing the piano and directing plays.

After a year at the Central School of Speech and Drama in London, followed by a year at the Sorbonne in Paris, she discovered publishing with a position as editorial assistant at Thames and Hudson, which fostered both a concern for detail and her love of words, as she checked each pasted page individually.

In 1964 she married Philip Simms, a professional musician and organist at St Alfege’s Church in Greenwich. Together they started the Thomas Tallis Society, named after another (slightly more famous) organist from that parish. For years, Jacky organized concerts, organized overseas tours and organized after-concert parties. Somehow she also found time to become a mother, complete a degree in English Literature at what is now Goldsmiths, University of London, and write and publish a novel, Unsolicited Gift. (1982).

In 1976, she inherited responsibility for the Oxford University Press poetry list from academic and poet Jon Stallworthy. For the next 20 years, Jacky oversaw the publication of one of the UK’s most distinguished poetry lists, nurturing the poets who became his friends. It was a job she loved and for which she was greatly admired.

In 1998, however, OUP decided to drop the list. She told the Independent newspaper: “It’s an act of vandalism…you can’t sell the whole list like a sack of potatoes.”

Despite enthusiastic support from John Carey, Hermione Lee, Craig Raine and many others, OUP was adamant – the list was long and 26 poets needed to find new publishers.

There were troubling times when her marriage ended, but after a year of teaching English literature in Japan, Jacky moved into a nice flat in Blackheath and became a working grandmother to two boys. , one of whom was a chorister at Temple Church in central London, a place she loved and which fully expressed her enjoyment of music and poetry.

Jacky is survived by her son, Ben, two grandsons, Jake and Oscar, and her sister, Liz.

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