Edward Sean "Eddie" Linden (born 5 May 1935) is a Scottish poet, literary magazine editor and political activist. From 1969 to 2004, he published and edited the poetry magazine Aquarius, which, according to The Irish Post, made him "one of the leading figures on the international poetry scene". The journal was significant in the growth of British, Irish and international poets, and has been described as Linden's "crowning gift to literature — the nurturing and developing of poetic talent".
|Born||5 May 1935|
Motherwell, North Lanarkshire, Scotland
|Occupation||Poet, political activist, magazine editor|
|Citizenship||United Kingdom and Republic of Ireland|
|Alma mater||Catholic Workers' College|
From City of Razors
A woman roars from an upper window
'They’re at it again, Maggie!
Five stitches in our Tommie’s face, Lizzie!
Eddie's in the Royal wi'a sword in his stomach
And the razor’s floating in the River Clyde.'
from "City of Razors" (1969)
Linden was born as an illegitimate child to Northern Irish parents in Motherwell, Scotland. He was born and baptised as John Edward Glackin, but became Edward Linden upon being adopted by his relatives Mary Glenn and Eddie Linden, whom he came to regard as his parents. In 1944, Mary died, and her widower Eddie, a miner, remarried a Scottish Presbyterian woman who disliked the young Edward. She failed to have him put in an asylum, so instead had him sent to an orphanage run by the Sisters of Charity.
At the age of 14, he was "released" from this institution and often slept rough. He was put to work in a coal mine, and after being fired from this job, worked in a steel mill. He was also employed as a ticket collector and porter at Hamilton West railway station. Linden was rejected for national service conscription in the army as he was deemed underweight and suffered from a duodenal ulcer. Having been raised as a Roman Catholic, he also struggled with his homosexuality, and even sought medical treatment from doctors, but abandoned this after falling out with the staff.
Linden's political and literary awakening came when he joined the Young Communist League. "At that time, the Communist Party had education classes - not just Marxist classes, but in Dickens, in Shakespeare - that was another discovery for me. Then there was the Workers' Educational Association. This was my way of getting away from that place and that life," he later recalled. According to his biographer John Cooney, "Linden sought freedom to explore his capabilities, away from what he felt were the dual Calvinist and Jansenist suffocations of the west of Scotland." Linden is said to have "wavered" in his communism following Moscow's suppression of the Hungarian Uprising of 1956. By 1995, he was referred to as a socialist.
In August 1958, by then in his early 20s, the young Edward, who would be known as Eddie, moved to London to work as a porter at St Pancras railway station. That year, he met the Catholic priest Anthony Ross, who helped Linden come to terms with his homosexuality and encouraged him to take part in peace protests: he became involved with the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament and the Catholic Worker. This lead to friendships with the journalist Douglas Hyde and Jesuit priest Thomas Roberts. Upon Ross's death, Linden wrote an obituary of him for The Guardian.
An April 1959 article by Hyde in The Catholic Herald outlined the origins of the Catholic Nuclear Disarmament Group, for whom Linden would become secretary. He later noted:
It was some time at the end of the 1950s when I first came across a little bookshop in Glasgow called the Freedom Bookshop. This was run by an eccentric Cockney, Guy Aldred, who was then editing a paper called Freedom. I saw a book entitled I Believe by Douglas Hyde. Also that day in that shop I picked up the American Catholic Worker produced by a remarkable person named Dorothy Day. The paper identified itself with the cause of peace and reconciliation. The book told a story of a man who had dedicated his life to Communism. At the time I was disillusioned but was still loosely attached to the Communist Party and the Young Communist League. These two items were to lead me back to a reconversion to Christianity of much greater social awareness.
In 1959, Linden arranged a meeting in Highbury Place for the Catholic CND which was attended by novelist Pamela Frankau, founder of the British version of The Catholic Worker Barbara Wall and John O'Connor, secretary of Pax Christi, the Catholic peace movement. According to Linden, "the whole idea was to publicise the immorality of the bomb": the group were affiliated the national CND, and a letter was sent to General de Gaulle to protest the French test explosion. The first Catholic banner was seen on an Aldermasteron March in 1959, with 200 people. 600 associate members were part of the organisation. By 1966, Linden had become less active, and had gone to the Catholic Workers' College in Oxford to study. Linden describes himself as a Catholic who finds it difficult to believe in God. Meanwhile, in 1963, he co-founded the Simon Community, a charity in aid of the homeless, with Anton Wallich-Clifford, a probation officer at Bow Street Magistrates Court.
As well as publishing poetry in Aquarius, Linden also wrote and gave readings of his own poems, such as 'City of Razors', which recalls the sectarian violence of his youth in Glasgow. He had been writing verse since his teenage years, and after moving south, was encouraged by Barker and Porter. He had known Barker's son Sebastian at Oxford, and in 1965 met his mother, the writer Elizabeth Smart, who adopted him as a protége; she was complimentary about the letters Linden wrote. In 1980, City of Razors, a collection of his poems, was published. It won praise from Pinter, Gavin Ewart and Lord Longford.
In April 1981, continuing his commitment to the renewed anti-nuclear movement, Linden appeared at Poets against the Bomb, an event staged by Kensington and Chelsea CND at Chelsea Town Hall. In a line-up that included performances by Pete Brown, Ivor Cutler, Gavin Ewart, Adrian Henri and Harold Pinter, Linden read his poem 'Hampstead by Night'. Sponsored by the Greater London Arts Association and the Arts Council of Great Britain, it was filmed and is thus a rare example of Linden's performance preserved for posterity. The film was premiered at the London Film Festival.
From Hampstead by Night
Comfortable little suburb north of London
With its wooded heath
Where queers and heteros nest at night
Little girls in mini-skirts
Boys with long hair and pockets full of French letters
Preparing for a night's fucking
from "Hampstead by Night"
A second volume of his poetry, A Thorn in the Flesh, was published in 2011. Linden has given readings of his poems on BBC One, BBC Radio 3, BBC Radio Scotland, Radio Clyde and LBC Radio. In person, there have been live readings throughout Scotland, Ireland, England, Wales, New York City, Canada and Boston.
In 1969, Linden started the poetry magazine Aquarius, which he edited from his flat in Maida Vale until 2004 and featured emerging writers. He was helped by fellow poet John Heath-Stubbs, and a donation from his friend, the playwright Harold Pinter; it has been said that Linden was the inspiration for the character of Spooner in Pinter's play No Man's Land. Fellow poets George Barker and Peter Porter also allowed their work to be published for free. The first issue featured contributions from Heath-Stubbs, Barker, Stevie Smith and Kathleen Raine. The magazine was published every few years and ran to 26 issues in all. In 1991, its existence was said to be under threat, prompting a question in the House of Commons from Scottish Labour MP Brian Wilson to the Minister for the Arts Tim Renton.
A Festschrift, Eddie's Own Aquarius, edited by Constance Short and Tony Carroll, was published in tribute to Linden himself in 2005. Marking his 70th birthday, it featured tributes from friends and contributions from writers who had appeared in the magazine, amongst them fellow poets Seamus Heaney, Alan Brownjohn, Roger McGough, Dannie Abse, Brian Patten, Elaine Feinstein, Alasdair Gray, Paul Muldoon, Tom Paulin, illustrator Ralph Steadman, politician Clare Short (a cousin of the book's co-editor Constance), artist Craigie Aitchison, academic Sir Bernard Crick, former CND chair Bruce Kent, writer James Kelman and emeritus Poet Laureate Sir Andrew Motion. Heaney, who knew him in London, dedicated 'A Found Poem' to Linden.
Who is Eddie Linden, a biography written by Sebastian Barker, with illustrations by Ralph Steadman, was published in 1979, covering the story of Linden's early years in London. The following year, it was adapted into a stage play, which was produced in 1995 at The Old Red Lion in Islington, North London. Written by William Tanner, the play starred Michael Deacon as Linden, receiving good notices and playing to packed houses. In 1985, Linden sat for a portrait by photographer Granville Davies which is now held by the National Portrait Gallery.
His 80th birthday was celebrated with a party at Conway Hall in 2015, at which he recited several of his poems. Barker's widow Hilary Davies described Linden as "loyal and non-judgmental", and, comparing him to a meerkat, said he was "sociable, communicative, ferreting in corners for choice morsels and then delighting in showing it to the community". He was presented with a portrait of himself by London Irish artist Luke Canavan.
- City of Razors and other poems, Jay Landesman, 1980
- A Thorn in the Flesh: Selected Poems, Hearing Eye, 2011
- Cooney, John (13 May 2015). "Happy 80th birthday, Eddie Linden, poet, pacifist and Catholic atheist". The Irish Times. Retrieved 19 March 2019.
- "Meet London's Eddie Linden - the Irish Scots poet with an incredible life story". The Irish Post. Retrieved 19 March 2019.
- "Eddie Linden". Friends of the Magdala. Retrieved 19 March 2019.
- Campbell, James (8 April 2006). "Redemption song". The Guardian. Retrieved 19 March 2019.
- Lethbridge, Lucy (10 March 1995). "Literature liberates a Catholic who is fighting for poetic justice". Catholic Herald.
- Stanford, Peter. "A thorn in the flesh: Poet Eddie Linden is a catholic who finds it difficult to believe in god". The Tablet. The Tablet Publishing Company. Retrieved 19 March 2019.
- Patterson, Glenn (interviewer) (19 September 2007). Eddie Linden - Interview ( Part 2 ) (Television production). NVTV. 2 minutes in.
- Linden, Eddie (1980). City of Razors: And Other Poems. London: J. Landesman. ISBN 9780905150222.
- Fuchs, Francis (director) (15 April 1981). Poets against the Bomb (documentary film).
- "Poets against the Bomb (1981)". BFI. Retrieved 19 March 2019.
- Fuchs, Francis (January 1982). "Notes". Marxism Today.
- Linden, Eddie S. (2011). A Thorn in the Flesh: Selected Poems. Hearing Eye. ISBN 9781905082636.
- "Eddie S Linden". Retrieved 19 March 2019.
- Trotter, Stewart. "5,000 VIEWS, 22 PARTICIPATING NATIONS AND THE APPOINTMENT OF EDDIE LINDEN!!!". The Shakespeare Code. Retrieved 19 March 2019.
- "Poetry - Hansard". hansard.parliament.uk. Retrieved 23 July 2019.
- "Eddie Linden". Scottish Poetry Library. Retrieved 19 March 2019.
- "Eddie Linden". Hearing Eye. Retrieved 19 March 2019.
- Sansom, Ian. "Who is Eddie Linden". The Times Literary Supplement. Retrieved 19 March 2019.
- "portrait - npg x25138; eddie linden". National Portrait Gallery. Retrieved 19 March 2019.
- Gulliver, John (21 May 2015). "Poet of the City of Razors 'canonised' at 80". Camden New Journal. New Journal Enterprises Ltd. Retrieved 19 March 2019.
- "Eddie Linden". Mall Galleries. Retrieved 11 April 2019.
- Barker, Sebastian. Who is Eddie Linden. Jay Landesman, 1979.
- Short, Constance and Carroll, Tony. Eddie's Own Aquarius. Cahermee Publications, 2005.