British Poetry Magazines 1914‐2000: A History and Bibliography of “Little Magazines”

William Baker (Department of English/Libraries Northern Illinois University, Dekulb, IL, USA)

Library Review

ISSN: 0024-2535

Article publication date: 23 May 2008




Baker, W. (2008), "British Poetry Magazines 1914‐2000: A History and Bibliography of “Little Magazines”", Library Review, Vol. 57 No. 5, pp. 400-401.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2008, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

British Poetry Magazines 1914‐2000: A History and Bibliography of “Little Magazines” fills in an important gap in the literature of British little magazines. The late B.C. Bloomfield's An Author Index to Selected British “Little Magazines” published in 1976 covers 73 little magazines citing title, publication data and the kind of work (for instance verse, prose, illustration and so on). The end of each other entry contains a list of books written by the author reviewed in the magazine. Alvin Sullivan's four‐volume British Literary Magazine (1983‐1986) encompasses essays by diverse hands in magazines covering the period from 1698 until 1984. In addition to narrative accounts of varying lengths, it contains location details and lists of editors. There are of course basic enumerative listings to be found in the New Cambridge Bibliography of English Literature: the 1900‐1950 volume edited by I.R. Willison (1972) being particularly useful for recording journal titles for the earlier part of the last century.

Miller and Price's important volume focuses on poetry. In their “Introduction”, the compliers write: “A detailed history of the modern British little magazine has yet to be written, but it is hoped that this book and the key texts mentioned in the How to Use This Book chapter, cited throughout, form the building blocks with which to begin to construct such a history” (xi). The second section “How to Use this Book” ([xiv]‐xvii) succinctly explains that it “is an annotated bibliography of poetry magazines published in the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland from 1914 to 2000” ([xiv]).

Chronologically divided into five sections, 1914‐1939, 1940‐1949, 1950‐1959, 1960‐1975, and 1976‐2000, within sections arrangement is alphabetical. Each section begins with a general account of little magazines containing poetry. Each entry records, if known, “the basic details of title, editor, place of publication, publisher, issue numbering and dates of publication” (xv), and at times a commentary on the magazine.

Some entries come as a surprise. For instance, “Chapter A: 1914‐1939,” item 195 is Scrutiny. In addition to its editors, although the specific dates of their editorships of the journal are not stated (unlike for instance in Sullivan's volumes), anthologies and reprints are given plus related work, with the British Library shelf mark and basic microform detail. The note on Scrutiny observes: “It published literary criticism almost entirely, though very occasionally some poems did appear”[46]. Shelf marks of runs at the British Library, Cambridge University Library, the National Library of Scotland, Trinity College Dublin, then are given, plus the initial of University College London, but no shelf location. The “Title Index” entry for Scrutiny in Miller and Price, is limited to three cross‐references, one of these is the main entry: “A 188, A 195 [the main entry], E 613” (447). Unfortunately, this is no assistance in finding out which poets and poems actually appeared in Scrutiny.

In addition to the brief but largely informative paragraphs on individual magazines, this volume is most useful for its “Name Index” ([368]‐429). There are two other indexes, a “Subject Index” ([364]‐367), and a “Title Index ([430]‐452). The “Name Index” can shed light on individual author primary bibliographies. To take, but two illustrations from many. E 795 refers to Strawberry Fare: St. Mary's College literary magazine: articles, poetry. This was published from Autumn 1984 to Autumn 1989 by the English Department of St. Mary's College, Twickenham, Surrey. The issues contain interviews with among others Tom Stoppard and David Lodge, and also includes contributions from John Wain, Seamus Heaney, Philip Hobsbaum, Edwin Morgan and others. Individual copies are listed as being held at various libraries (327), but no complete run seems to exist!

Other gems in the “Name Index” include “Pinter, Harold, B 49, C 94, C 112, C 122, D 63” (411). This refers to his poetry in The Glass, published in Lowestoft (B 49), Prospect, from Cambridge (C 49), Tomorrow from Oxford (C 112), The Window from London (C 122), and another London publication Bananas (D 63). Specific publication details of the Pinter poem items are not given only that his work appears in the magazine. It is with some considerable relief that on turning to my own and J.C. Ross' Harold Pinter: A Bibliographical History (2005), I find that none of these are excluded.

“Chapter 15” of Miller and Price is “A Timeline” (344‐355). The head note explains: “This section simply lists notable magazines which started in a particular year” (344). It begins in 1914 with Blast and concludes in 2000 with Poetry Express: a quarterly newsletter from Survivor's Poetry, edited by Lisa Boardman and James Ferguson (355). E 625 interestingly explains that “the magazine is the official publication of Survivors' Poetry, an organization aimed at helping survivors of mental distress through the encouragement of poetry writing and performance and other creative activity.” There is a partial run at the British Library and also the newsletter may be found at the Poetry Library (303).

All in all then, Miller and Price have produced an invaluable reference tool that will have a lengthy shelf‐life – at least while there are books around! There are inevitably some misprints. The sturdily bound volume is designed and typeset in Quadrant so that usage is not too difficult on strained eyes. Some of the small font used for the narrative accounts can be a bit hard to read, however (see for instance D 15 the entry on Alembic: magazine of new poetry, prose and graphics). This is a minor caveat. British Poetry Magazines 1914‐2000: A History and Bibliography of “Little Magazines” is a must for all libraries providing basic reference materials for the study of 20th century British and Irish literatures and cultures.

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