Vale Julia Kaylock

Rochford Street Review was shocked and saddened to learn just two days after Robert Adamson’s memorial that Julia Kaylock, a fellow poet and editor as well as the publisher of Litoria Press, had died surrounded by her family. Julia’s need for privacy during her illness meant that this was a shock to many people in the poetry community, this writer included. Whilst I had never had the good fortune to meet Julia in person, during Covid lockdowns we corresponded intermittently about poetry as I had (successfully) submitted work to both anthologies that Julia was editing with Denise O’Hagan – Messages from the Embers (Black Quill, 2020) and Poetry for the Planet (Litoria Press, 2021). I recall seeing Julia’s wonderful smile, on Zoom, among the friendly faces on yet another Covid launch when my own book The Unintended Consequences of the Shattering (MPU, 2020) was launched in December 2020. Her interest in and support for my first book was greatly appreciated and is of course just one instance of Julia’s enthusiasm for poetry and something akin to solidarity with late emerging writers such as myself. Julia’s enthusiasm, grace under pressure whilst living with a terminal illness, did not diminish her unflagging support for other poets to achieve their dream of publication. Such commitment was remarkable.

Julia’s family are celebrating her life in a simple picnic next weekend and details have been posted by her daughter. I had wanted to write this tribute the day I heard the sad news but it has taken me a while to feel up to the task of paying tribute to someone I admired and for whom I am grateful to have known however briefly.

Fotoula Reynolds, whose new book Kairós was edited by Julia and published by Litoria Press included the following thanks in her book:

I would like to give thanks to my publisher and friend Julia Kaylock at Litoria Press. The smooth and professional guidance I received during this the publishing process was crucial to my sanity. I am absolutely thrilled with the outcome and I congratulate Julia on producing a book I will forever cherish.

With love and gratitude, always.

Poet, editor and publisher Denise O’Hagan worked closely with Julia over the last few years. Writing of Julia on 16 January this year she said:

When I think of Julia, I think of her warmth and energy, her evident love for her family, and her huge contribution to the literary community. Her lively presence on social media gave only the merest suggestion of her industriousness. She was a writer and poet, an editor, and most recently, a publisher through her own independent imprint, Litoria Press, established in 2020 ‘to assist authors to make their publishing dreams come true’.

And come true they did—in just two years, Julia published no less than six titles. She was unstinting in her efforts to help her authors develop their confidence and bring their books to fruition, providing design and production expertise as well as editorial support.

One of those books deserves a special mention, because it is her own story. Child of the Clouds (2021) is notable for being one of the relatively few verse memoirs concerning adoption trauma and recovery, about which situation she was well placed to write. A frank and courageous book, it is not only testament to her own resilience but also her underlying generosity: she wrote it also in the hope that it may help other adoptees.

Helping others was a recurring theme in Julia’s life, and the impulse behind an anthology familiar to many in the poetry community, Messages from the Embers, published in the wake of the Australian bushfires of 2019-2020. I first met Julia when she approached me with her idea of creating a poetry anthology to raise funds for the bushfire relief effort (the book went on to raise $2000 for the charity BlazeAid).

Just like Poetry for the Planet which followed (2021), this ambitious anthology was wholly her initiative and would never have existed but for her imagination, initiative and capacity for sheer hard work. We rely, increasingly, on technology for interaction but Julia was a true ‘people person’, and not above travelling down to Sydney and staying three days so we, as co-editors, could go through all submissions together. Many a spirited discussion followed, and many laughs were had, and it remains one of the most entertaining extended editorial meetings I’ve ever had.

We will all miss her unstinting generosity, rare altruism, and infectious sense of humour. Vale Julia, and heartfelt condolences to her family and those who knew her best.

Rochford Street Review extends its sincere condolences to Julia’s family and friends.

 – Linda Adair