Jon Silkin was born in London to the children of immigrants from Eastern Europe. He left school with no qualifications but a love of poetry. In 1958 he became the fourth Gregory Fellow in Poetry at the University of Leeds and in 1960 after two years' full-time study he was awarded a 1st Class Degree in English. He co-founded the 'Northern House' poetry pamphlet series. He was still writing and editing Stand in his hospital bed.