The Scottish Poetry Library held its annual Small Press event today, always a good opportunity to see what’s new, and to meet up with old friends. I’m not going to name-drop (much), but it was nice to talk with Rob Mackenzie, Gerry Cambridge, Helena Nelson and Duncan Glen, among many others. Plus I bumped into my old (but not so old) haiku mentor Alan Spence in Starbucks.
Richard Price, who I don’t really know but whose poetry I’ve come to admire greatly, talked about Gael Turnbull and Migrant magazine, highly influential in its day.
I already had my nostalgia nerve-ends stimulated by the Wild Hawthorn Press stand, displaying as it did many of Ian Hamilton Finlay’s publications.
Then Richard moved on to discuss Jim Haynes’ Paperback Bookshop (see earlier blog) and Pete Brown, a London poet I admired in the early 1960s. Robert Garioch and I were at one of Pete’s Edinburgh readings with the New Departures set-up.
Ian Hamilton Finlay published a hugely influential magazine called Poor Old Tired Horse from about 1962. It was originally a monthly broadsheet, and I eagerly awaited each new issue, and the chance to buy a copy for 2/6d in Jim’s bookshop. That was where I encountered the work of Edwin Morgan, Pete Brown, Gael, Anselm Hollo, Lorine Niedecker and some of the Black Mountain poets. The title is a line from Robert Creeley, who also featured.
I was writing a great deal between 1961 and 1964, but I more or less stopped writing between 1966 and 1985 (it’s a long story). However, and this is where the story takes a sadder turn, everything I did write was stored in a couple of black bin bags, along with P.O.T.H. and other publications. Then we moved house in 1976. Guess what happened to the bin bags? Yeah, right.
I’ve got no memory of my early writing, and it would be pointless to try to reconstruct any of it. But I seriously, seriously regret the loss of P.O.T.H. I’ve seen an incomplete set offered for sale for £600, but that seems to me to be too high a price to pay to try to recapture the excitement I had in reading it for the first time.