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  • Writer's pictureAnthony Nanson

Jay Ramsay (1958–2018)

Updated: Dec 6, 2019

by Anthony Nanson

Jay Ramsay Pembroke College cropped (2)

I can’t yet believe he’s gone. He will leave such a big space in the healing and poetry communities of which he’s been such a leading light. He was Awen’s biggest champion, just as he championed and encouraged so many individuals on their creative and spiritual journeys. He said to me once that for him poetry and psychotherapy were essentially the same thing, equally concerned with transformation. He had no time for poetry that didn’t have some kind of transformative intent.

Jay referred to his cancer journey as an ‘initiation’. I feel privileged to have got to know him more personally during these last years, when new levels of courage and grace blossomed in him. Although he fought so hard to find healing, and felt there was much he still wanted to do in this life, he seemed not to fear death. I remember him saying, ‘It’s just a gateway, after all.’ Conversations with him reinforced my conviction that death is not the end and there’s a multiplicity of possibilities of what comes after.

Jay was the author, editor, or translator of 48 books, by my count; three of them just this year. He launched The Dangerous Book, his interpretation of the Bible, at a well-attended event in Stroud on 1 November. Perhaps it was fitting that such a supremely ambitious work, accomplished while he had cancer, should be his swansong.

In the course of the past year, Jay attempted to revive his true name, John. He felt an affinity with St John, the beloved disciple, the one who tradition says laid his head on Christ’s chest during the Last Supper and thus heard the heartbeat of God. The heartbeat of God certainly pounds through Jay’s writing, just as it did through his life.

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25. Jan.

5 years on and I still find the space this beautiful man occupied, so hard to bear. Such a humble soul, yet one which filled the air with light and his breath uttered words that changed lives and poems that mended broken hearts. His legacy lives on and loves on in his written word and in the threads he so generously stitched into the embroidery of the lives of those he touched. I will forever be indebted to him for reawakening the poetic voice in me that saved my lost soul. Bless you Jay.

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