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The poet, travel writer, playwright, autobiographer, translator, and editor James Kirkup was born in 1918 in the county of Durham. After graduating from Durham University in 1941, he applied for conscientious objector status and spent five years in an agricultural labor camp, during which time he published his first poems. His first book, The Drowned Sailor and Other Poems (1947), brought him into contact with J.R. Ackerley, the celebrated editor of The Listener, who became a close friend. He subsequently published The Submerged Village and Other Poems (1951), A Correct Compassion and Other Poems (1952), A Spring Journey and Other Poems (1954), and The Descent into the Cave and Other Poems (1957). Having taught for three years in Corsham, Wiltshire, Kirkup spent the following years abroad: in Sweden, Spain, and, from 1959 onwards, as professor of English at Tohoku University in Sendai, in Japan, where he remained until 1961. He returned to Japan in 1963, first in Tokyo until 1970, then in Nagoya until 1972. His Japanese stay profoundly influenced his later work: The Prodigal Son: Poems 1956-1959 (1959), Refusal to Conform: Last and First Poems (1963), Japan Marine (1965), and Paper Windows: Poems from Japan (1968). The years 1972-75 took him to the United States, Morocco, and Ireland. After teaching in Cardiff in 1976-77, he moved to the principality of Andorra in the Pyrenees, which has been his residence since, while keeping close ties with Japan. In that same year 1977, the publication of his poem "The love that dares to speak its name" in Gay News triggered the first blasphemy trial in England for more than a century. The Guardian December 14, 1995, Pg. 11 HEADLINE: Churchman Angry At Gay Jesus Poem BYLINE: Madeleine Bunting Religious Affairs Editor A prominent evangelical member of the General Synod has demanded the expulsion of the Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement from the Church after discovering that it had placed on the Internet a poem dealing with a homosexual fantasy about Christ, which was the subject of a blasphemy trial. The poem, The Love That Dares To Speak Its Name by James Kirkup, became a cause celebre in 1977 after Mary Whitehouse successfully sued Gay News co-founder Denis Lemon for publishing blasphemous libel. For about six months it has been accessible through the Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement's World Wide Web site. LGCM also offered a guide to the poem in which one of their members, the Rev Mark Vernon, "explored the connections between sexuality and religious experience/ devotion." The poem and the guide were taken off the site "several weeks" ago, said Mr Vernon. The Rev Tony Higton, a prominent evangelical member of the General Synod, has written to every member of synod urging that the Church abandon its dialogue with LGCM on recognition of gay rights. "The poem is a homosexual fantasy on the crucified body of Christ which I find to be deeply offensive. It is explicit in saying Jesus had homosexual relations with other men. It is so foul, I can't understand how any Christian can put that kind of material out," said Mr Higton. The case illustrates how the Internet can circumvent British laws. The poem was on the Internet in an American database, Queer Resources Directory, and the LGCM's web site simply provided a "hypertext link", signposting how to find the poem. It is illegal to publish or circulate the poem in this country. Mr Vernon, who edits the LGCM Internet web site, said: "We were aware of the legal ambiguity in this area so we did take legal advice and were told that this would not constitute 'publishing' the poem." Mr Vernon has written to synod members to defend the LGCM: "This poem is a piece of gay history. We have been accused of publishing pornography but Mr Higton is sensationalising the matter." The Daily Telegraph July 25, 1994, Pg. 21 HEADLINE: Obituary of Denis Lemon Denis Lemon, who has died aged 48 of an Aids-related illness, was convicted of blasphemous libel in 1977 as a result of a private prosecution brought by Mrs Mary Whitehouse over "an obscene poem and illustration vilifying Christ in His Life and in His Crucifixion". In June 1976, Lemon, a co-founder and editor of Gay News (the now defunct newspaper for homosexuals) decided to publish a poem by James Kirkup entitled The Love that Dares to Speak its Name, in which a Roman centurion fantasises as he contemplates Christ's crucified body. Lemon, a jaunty 32-year old, thought "the message and intention of the poem was to celebrate the absolute universality of God's love". But an outraged reader sent a copy of the poem to Mrs Whitehouse, who brought proceedings against both Lemon and the newspaper. The Crown then took over the prosecution, and the trial opened at the Old Bailey in July 1977. The defendants were accused of attacking Christ in a manner that exceeded the limits of controversy and undermined Christianity. The prosecution believed the poem portrayed Christ as having had homosexual relations with Paul of Tarsus, the 12 Apostles, Herod's guards and Pontius Pilate. Lemon was defended by the barrister and playwright John Mortimer, and expert witnesses were assembled, the novelist Margaret Drabble and the journalist Bernard Levin among them. Judge Alan King-Hamilton seemed determined that the case should not be repeat of the Lady Chatterly trial, which had been dominated by interminable artistic claim and counter-claim; and would allow Lemon's supporters to appear only as witnesses as to the general tone and content of Gay News. The jury rejected the argument that the poem glorified Christ and found Lemon and Gay News guilty. The newspaper was fined @1,000. Lemon was fined @500 and received a nine-month suspended sentence, which was later quashed. Judge King-Hamilton expressed his hope that the jury's decision showed that the "pendulum of public opinion was beginning to swing back to a more healthy climate". Civil liberties groups condemned the verdict, and European countries were amazed that in Britain blasphemy laws might still apply in matters of literary taste. The first individual to be convicted of blasphemous libel for more than 50 years, Lemon found himself reviled and lauded in equal measure. He was much in demand as a public speaker, and his opinion was solicited on such matters as the fatwa on Salman Rushdie. Kirkup, who was prevented from defending his poem in court, himself received a torrent of hate-mail not only from Christians but also from homosexuals who believed he had deserted Lemon. A civil servant's son, Denis Lemon was born at Bradford-on-Avon on Aug 11 1945 and educated at the Simon Langton School, Canterbury. He moved to London, where he worked first in accountancy and later in a record shop. He was also active in the Gay Liberation Front, and in 1971 co-founded Gay News, a fortnightly newspaper initially run as a collective. Lemon later became the proprietor, and showed considerable entrepreneurial flair. After the trial circulation rose briefly, but he sold the paper in 1982 and it later closed. In search of anonymity, Lemon retreated to Exeter, where he was in charge of catering at the Arts Centre. Debilitated by illness, he became increasingly reclusive and devoutly Christian. The Independent July 23, 1994, Page 45 HEADLINE: Obituary: Denis Lemon BYLINE: Peter Burton Denis Edward Lemon, newspaper editor and restaurateur: born Bradford-on-Avon 11 August 1945; Editor, Gay News 1972-82; died Exmouth 21 July 1994. After his trial in 1977 at the Old Bailey on a charge of blasphemous libel, Denis Lemon became something of an international celebrity: he was the first man to be convicted in Britain on such a charge in more than 50 years. The trial for ever changed Lemon's life and he was pursued by journalists almost up until his death for comments on everything from the fatwa on Salman Rushdie to the retirement of Mrs Mary Whitehouse from the Presidency of the National Viewers' and Listeners' Association. And the stresses and strains of the months between June 1976 - when he published James Kirkup's poem ''The Love that Dares to Speak its Name'' in issue 96 of Gay News - and his trial at the Old Bailey in July 1977, took a terrific toll on his health and was the main contributing factor to his selling the newspaper in February 1982. Born in Bradford-on-Avon in 1945, Denis Lemon grew up in Herne Bay and Whitstable and was educated at the Simon Langton School in Canterbury. Moving to London, he worked in accountancy and later in a record shop in south London - music was an obsession, everything from rock 'n' roll to grand opera by way of Ethel Merman and Dusty Springfield. The evolving Gay Liberation Front pulled him in the direction of sexual politics and the idea of Gay News was originally mooted in 1971. The first issue of the fortnightly - run by a short-lived collective - appeared in June 1972. Lemon became Editor in August 1972, remaining in that position until he sold the paper almost 10 years later. The newspaper did not long survive his departure. Although he had written for Gay News and more recently contributed to Gay Times (notably his only written account of the blasphemy trial), Lemon was not a journalist and his vital contribution to gay publishing was as a far- sighted entrepreneur who was hard-nosed enough to get a gay newspaper up and running and keep it going in the face of hostility. He published Kirkup's poem in 1976 because he thought ''the message and intention of the poem was to celebrate the absolute universality of God's love'', although he admitted it was ''probably not a great work of literature''. Not everyone viewed the poem in the same light as Lemon and an outraged reader dispatched a copy to Mary Whitehouse who instigated a prosecution for blasphemous libel. Judge Alan King- Hamilton disallowed expert testimony on the literary, sociological or theological qualities of the poem - Margaret Drabble and Bernard Levin were allowed to appear as character witnesses on Lemon's part. John Mortimer appeared for the defence, but Gay News Ltd and Denis Lemon were found guilty - Lemon being fined pounds 500 and sentenced to nine months' imprisonment, suspended for 18 months and subsequently quashed by the Court of Appeal. With Gay News behind him, Lemon became a restaurateur - notably at the Arts Centre in Exeter after he had moved to that city in an attempt to regain the anonymity he had lost. Increasing ill-health - he had suffered from Aids-related illness for several years - caused him to become increasingly reclusive but with a hold on life the tenacity of which left his friends amazed. He was a great original. He is survived by his partner of many years, Nick Purshouse, and several much- loved cats. The Independent July 23, 1994, Saturday, Page 45 HEADLINE: Obituary: Denis Lemon BYLINE: James Kirkup Denis Edward Lemon, newspaper editor and restaurateur: born Bradford-on-Avon 11 August 1945; Editor, Gay News 1972-82; died Exmouth 21 July 1994. I NEVER met Denis Lemon, writes James Kirkup. But in the early Seventies I found his editing of Gay News original, brave and professional. I first got in touch with him when I was living in New York, where the liberated and liberating sexual climate released in me a long sequence of homosensual poems. The only place likely to accept them in Britain was Gay News, so I started sending them there. Among them was the poem that caused such an unnecessary uproar, ''The Love that Dares to Speak its Name'', and which I disowned long ago. It was part of the sequence I called, in homage to Picasso, ''My Blue Period''. This involved me in some correspondence with Lemon, whose letters were funny, affectionate and perceptive. One of the last poems he accepted was ''Gay Nursery Rhyme'' - based on ''Gay go up and gay go down / To ring the bells of London Town''. But when the storm broke over our heads, I begged Lemon not to print it, and he sent a sympathetic letter of agreement. By this time, I was concluding negotiations on a contract for a teaching post in Kyoto and I returned to Europe to make preparations for my departure. I wrote to Denis Lemon asking him how I could be of help, but received no reply. I wrote to his staff at the newspaper, but got no answer. Then I received a disturbing letter from Marion Boyars, who informed me of something I had not known: I would not be allowed to defend myself in court. The date for my return to Japan was put off again and again as I tried to get to the bottom of Gay News's mysterious silence. I wrote several letters outlining my position to Boyars, who without asking my permission sent them to the Observer, which published them. I finally left for Japan. I had done all I could to help. Francis King, like many others, misunderstood my attitude. In his inventive autobiography Yesterday Came Suddenly (1993) there are many inaccuracies about me. Even worse, he suggests that I am a coward: ''Since Denis Lemon was a friend of mine, since I felt sorry for him, cruelly isolated by Kirkup's refusal to return to England to defend his own poem'', he agreed to John Mortimer's request to give evidence - which he was of course unable to do, as I could have told him. He continues: ''It was a great relief when the judge ruled that literary merit was irrelevant in the case.'' But there was no relief for me, pursued by avalanches of hate mail, some of it from so-called ''gays'' and ''Christians''. In the end, I gave up opening my letters, and drowned a great bundle of them in the Inland Sea, along with piles of unread press-cuttings. When the case was over, I again wrote to Lemon expressing my sympathy and again offering him my support, but there was no reply from him, though I got one from his assistants, who declared that my letters in the Observer had been magnificent - I had written to Boyars that ''blasphemy, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder'' - and that they had been a great help and consolation to everyone concerned. I now realise that Lemon was advised not to write to me by his lawyers. I deeply regret the trouble I caused him and his newspaper, and mourn the passing of someone I should have liked to know better, but was prevented from doing so. He was gifted, witty and courageous. The Guardian July 22, 1994, Pg. T19 HEADLINE: Daring To Care For The Cause; Obituary: Denis Lemon BYLINE: Richard Smith Denis Lemon, who has died aged 48, is perhaps best known as the last man in Britain to be convicted of blasphemy. But he was, more importantly, one of the founding fathers of the British gay press and the editor and proprietor of Gay News during the seventies. Born in Bradford-on-Avon, he grew up in Herne Bay and Whitstable. He moved to London after leaving school and worked in a Brixton record shop - rock and roll was an abiding passion - and in accountancy. A self-confessed "fading hippy" Denis became involved with the burgeoning Gay Liberation Front in the early seventies, and the idea for Gay News was first proposed by Andrew Lumsden at a meeting of London GLF. It was significant that GLF members agreed to work with the less radical Campaign for Homosexual Equality. Gay News was envisaged as a publication that would try to appeal to all members of the "gay community". Co-founded by Lumsden and Lemon, the first issue appeared in June, 1972. Provocative, political, proud and fun, Gay News soon became a lifeline to many lesbians and gay men, giving them both a voice and a public profile. Denis became Gay News' sole editor and proprietor. A tall, gangling man with a sense of humour as black as coal, his skills as an entrepreneur saw sales of the fortnightly publication rise to 20,000 an issue. However, Denis and the paper achieved unplanned public prominence in June 1976 after he decided to publish James Kirkup's poem The Love That Dares To Speak Its Name. The poem dealt with a gay man's Christianity and metaphorically attributed homosexual acts to Christ. Denis believed it was "thought- provoking". Mary Whitehouse thought otherwise and brought a criminal prosecution for "blasphemous libel" against Gay News. After a highly publicised trial at the Old Bailey in 1977, Denis was found guilty under this archaic law, fined pounds 500 and given a nine-month suspended sentence. Gay News Limited was fined pounds 1,000 and ordered to pay its own defence costs. Gay News benefited considerably from the publicity but the prosecution sapped both resources and energy. After a bout of ill health, Denis sold the title in 1982 and Gay News closed soon after. In 1983 Denis worked briefly with Paul Oremland on the first networked lesbian and gay series, Channel Four's One In Five. He then moved to Exeter with his partner, Nick Purshouse, and became a restaurateur. Though he had been severely ill with Aids for a number of years, this former hero of a great gay cause celebre was regularly tracked down by journalists to give his opinion on anything from Salman Rushdie to Mary Whitehouse's retirement.
[James Kirkup] [The Alsop Review]