World Poetry Day (2): The Merseyside Poets – Small Press Publications

In 1979 the Library established a project which aimed to create a special collection of “manuscripts, notebooks, correspondence, etc. and first published versions, of contemporary Merseyside writers”. The poets initially selected for inclusion were David Calder, Gladys Mary Coles, Carol Ann Duffy, Henry Graham, Adrian Henri, Harold and Sylvia Hikins, Richard Hill, Sid Hoddes, Roger McGough, Alasdair Patterson, Matt Simpson, Brian Wake and Dave Ward – with the works of many other local writers added subsequently. Though it never quite achieved the ambitious, comprehensive aims apparently intended for it, the resulting collection – which has been greatly enhanced by the University’s subsequent acquisition of the archives of McGough, Patten and Henri in 2010, and the archive of Matt Simpson in 2016 – does help to document and illustrate the rich history of the 20th century Liverpool poetry scene.

Integral to this scene were a large number of small press poetry publications that were designed and produced locally. Amongst the earliest of these were the magazines Matrix and Asylum, founded by Tony Dash and Brian Wake in the late 1960s:

Asylum

Dash and Wake went on to run Driftwood Publications out of Bootle, producing the Driftwood poets series which featured a range of local poets.

Similarly, in 1976 Dave Calder and Dave Ward founded the Windows Project, from which sprang the Merseyside Poetry Minibook Series, showcasing the work of poets with a local connection:

Merseyside Poetry Minibook Series

Ward was also responsible for the production of the poetry magazine Smoke, featuring the work of local, national and international poets. This magazine is still published today:

Smoke

Other local outfits at the time included the Toulouse Press (run by Harold and Sylvia Hikins), Raven Books, Headland Publications (still run by Gladys-Mary Coles), and The Glasshouse Press:

Glasshouse Press

Raven Books

These publications, which mostly date from the 1960s to 1980s, were sold at readings and events, as well as in bookshops and to subscribers around the world. The biggest sales, however, were achieved by hawking copies in pubs and clubs around Liverpool. Brian Wake recalls drinkers in O’Connor’s Tavern in Hardman Street, Ye Cracke and The Philharmonic Hotel, proving particularly literary in their tastes.

As the images above attest, these items were lovingly made, and stand testament to the creative energies of the individuals that produced them. Often colourful and highly-illustrated, they demonstrate a wide range of printing techniques, and featured local artists, photographers and reviewers alongside local, national and international writers. Their editors sought to include the works of lesser-known and new poets alongside more established names such as McGough, Patten and Henri. In this way, they helped to launch a number of careers, including those of Matt Simpson (whose early work was published by Driftwood) and Carol Ann Duffy (published when still little-known by Gladys Mary Coles of Headland Press, for example).

Before the advent of online publications, these carefully and beautifully produced objects provided a means to circulate the work of an increasingly diverse range of poets to an equally diverse audience then. As Brian Wake writes, whilst the social media platforms more commonly used for this purpose today may provide “democracy of a kind”, one might argue that they compromise something of “the thrill of holding a new printed volume of poetry or a crisp edition of the latest poetry magazine”, to say nothing of the camaraderie of pub-based peddling!

If you are interesting in learning more about this collection you can find details of published material by searching our printed books catalogue: http://library.liv.ac.uk/search~S3/X. General enquiries, and enquiries about archive material should be sent to scastaff@liverpool.ac.uk.

 

 

World Poetry Day (1): International Women’s Day

This month we are celebrating both International Women’s Day (8th March) and World Poetry Day (21st March). Therefore, we are showcasing material held in the Special Collections and Science Fiction Foundation collections which contains poetry written by women who personally or professionally impacted greatly on their respective field of literature.

Phillis Wheatley, Poems on Various Subjects, Religious and Moral (1773)

Poems on Various Subjects was authored by Phillis Wheatley. Phillis was purchased as a slave by John Wheatley, a Boston Merchant and Tailor, in 1761. She was tutored by John’s children in reading and writing, and wrote her first poem ‘To The University of Cambridge, New England’ at the age of 12. She was relieved of her domestic duties by the Wheatley family, and encouraged  to continue working on her literature. An illustration of Wheatley by Scipio Moorhead, another Boston slave, is provided in the frontispiece; the below extract is taken from a poem within the volume written by Wheatley in return. Our copy belonged to one of the William’s of the Rathbone family (by date most likely IV or V), as signed on the title page. 

SPEC Y77.3.255

To S.M. a young African Painter, on seeing his Works (p. 114).
When first thy pencil did those beauties give,
And breathing figures learnt from thee to live, 
How did those prospects give my soul delight,
A new creation rushing on my sight?

Radclyffe Hall, Rhymes and Rhythms (1948)

Rhymes and Rhythms was published posthumously in an edition of only 500 numbered copies in Milan. Our copy from the Zania collection is numbered as “5”. The text is provided in both the original language of English as well as Italian. Radclyffe Hall (1880-1943) is best known for her work The Well of Lonliness, which when published in 1928 was subject to a trial for obscenity and banned in Great Britain. A self-described “invert”, she lived with two long-term female partners during her lifetime, hence the dedication page inscription “Dedicated to Our Three Selves”.

SPEC ZANIA E68

Those Who Have Eyes… (p.61)
As I took my way down a certain street,
I saw a shop with a corpse of meat,
And a horse that hadn’t enough to eat,
And a cur that limped on neglected feet,
And a cat that rubbed its sores on a wall,
And a lobster that crawled about a stall,
And an organ monkey coughing and small.
But the sight that filled me with deepest rage, 
Was a nightingale in a six inch cage.

Carol Ann Duffy, Jackie Kay (and various others), Five Finger Piglets: Poems (1999)

Carol Ann Duffy and Jackie Kay contributed to this anthology for children, Five Finger Piglets: Poems. Duffy was appointed poet laureate in 2009, and she is the first woman, first Scot, and first openly LGBT person to hold the position; Kay is the third Scottish Poet Laureate, appointed in 2016, and also identifies as LGBT. Our copy of the anthology is held in the SPEC Patten series, as Brian Patten also contributed to this volume. The poetry is understandably centered upon many themes that would be familiar to children (such as friendship disputes at school and losing a ball in the neighbours garden), but, nonetheless, the volume is a excellently fun read for adults, too.

SPEC Patten 108 © 1999 Macmillan Children’s Books, Carol Ann Duffy, Jackie Kay

Excerpt from Dracula (p. 36-7), by and © Jackie Kay
I crawled along the pine floor to my father’s bed.
It was empty. Just a white pillow and a headrest.
My dad gave a large guffaw from the balcony. 

Took off his black cape; threw back his head, 
said, ‘Got you there didn’t I?
Okay. The Joke’s over. Back to your bed.’

Can you believe that? All I am asking is:
who needs imagination, a fear or a dread, 
when what we’ve got is parent’s instead?

Charlotte Brooke, Reliques of Irish Poetry (1816)

Reliques of Irish Poetry was first published in the late eighteenth century. Brooke (c. 1740–1793) was passionate in the preservation of Irish culture and heritage through translating traditional poetry. Our beautiful gilt-tooled calf-bound copy of the 1816 reissue includes an extensive biography of Brooke’s life, as well as poetry and prose in both English and Irish. The text contains poetry of varied types, including quasi-epic style heroics, elegies to loves lost, and odes to wars.

SPEC Y81.3.426

Elergy III, exerpt (p. 260, attributed by Brooke to Edmond Ryan)
For thee all dangers would I brave,
Life with joy, with pride exposing, 
Breast for thee the stormy wave,
Winds and tides in vain opposing.

Ursula K. Le Guin, The Wave in the Mind: Talks and Essays on the Writer, the Reader, and the Imagination (2004)

As one of the most influential female Science Fiction authors of all time, Ursula K. Le Guin (1929-2018) is best known for her fiction, including The Left Hand of Darkness (1969; which won both the Hugo and Nebula awards in 1970). However, in her 2004 collection of non-fiction essays The Wave in the Mind, she explores themes including the family, on being a woman, Tolkein, and writing. One particular interesting essay is her thoughts on stress rhythms in poetry and prose; she demonstrates, using various texts, the technique and necessity of reading with stress and rhythm in mind.

PX320.L34.W38 2004 © Ursula K. Le Guin

The observation of a pattern, even a arbitrary pattern, can give strength to words that otherwise would be bleating like lost lambs. (p. 78)

All the above can be consulted in the reading room. As usual, please do contact scastaff@liverpool.ac.uk for more information.

New Exhibition: Local Literary Landscapes

This year sees the exciting launch of the inaugural Liverpool Literary Festival, running 2830 October 2016. To celebrate, a new exhibition at Special Collections & Archives is highlighting the work of those literary figures who have sought inspiration from Liverpool and the surrounding area, particularly local poet Matt Simpson. His newly-acquired archive provides the bedrock for the exhibition and reveals just how much his work was influenced by Liverpool; his verses are full of the city and its people.

Matt Simpson returns to his childhood street

Matt Simpson returns to his childhood street

Simpson (1936-2009) grew up in Bulwer Street, Bootle, where he attended the local grammar school.  He went on to study English at Fitzwilliam College, Cambridge, and returned to Liverpool in the 1960s after his marriage to German actress Monika Weydert. He taught in various schools and colleges, including Christ’s College (now Liverpool Hope University). He published many collections of poetry, including some for children, as well as critical essays and monographs. He also undertook a poetry residence in Tasmania, which inspired his collection, Cutting the Clouds Towards (Liverpool: Liverpool University Press, 1998). But it was the city where he grew up and lived most of his life which would be his most enduring inspiration.

SPEC Merseyside Poets I.S615.M23 : Matt Simpson, Making Arrangements (Newcastle upon Tyne: Bloodaxe, 1982)

SPEC Merseyside Poets I.S615.M23 :
Matt Simpson, Making Arrangements (Newcastle upon Tyne: Bloodaxe, 1982)

The exhibition also includes impressions of the city recorded in the poems, autobiographies and travel diaries of a host of others, from novelist Daniel Defoe to physicist Oliver Lodge, social reformer Josephine Butler to poet Donald Davie.

The exhibition will run until the end of the year. In 2017 we’ll be celebrating the 50th anniversary of Mersey Sound, the anthology of poems produced by the ‘Liverpool Poets’ Brian Patten, Roger McGough and Adrian Henri.