Happy New Year, folks! I would've replied on this earlier - but I've been
away from my terminal with a bust ankle! Some way to spend Christmas...
On Fri, 19 Dec 1997, Simon Smith wrote:
> Was the parting of the ways with the "mainstream"
> inevitable, necessary even. As I read the history there was some kind
> of uneasy coexistence in the early 70's, maybe a consensus even?
* Kids! taxonomy can kill! In what follows, please read "mainstream" and
"innovative" as no more than provisional terms, very much in inverted
I think the mainstream / innovative separation can be traced much further
back than the 70's - to the 50's and 60's when presses such as Migrant and
Tarasque started to introduce US and European writings alongside the folks
they were promoting themselves (such as Fisher R, Turnbull, Shayer). Onto
that framework came the host of small press activity of the 60's - still
very contrary to the mainstream of UK poetry of its time. It's true that
some "underground" voices were, as it were, "elected" into the mainstream
in the late 60's - and a very few mainstream editors (most notably Tarn at
Cape) were open to new developments: that might imply coexistence or
confluence - but it's important to recognise the "otherness" of those
small press voices (Trigram, Ferry, Fulcrum, Goliard - for instance) which
would never lie easily beside the mainstream work of most trade presses.
An important instance of this - and also perhaps a key point of the very
early '70s - was the curtailment by Cape (after Tarn had left) of the Cape
Goliard arrangement which had achieved so much, but which left Goliard
wrecked. A little after that, Penguin closed its doors to "otherness" when
it decided not to print the John Riley/Chris Torrance/John Hall volume.
Important lessons on "collaboration" were learned at that point, which
came to mind when the Paladin bubble burst in the early 90s. I've
tremendous admiration for those few mainstream / innovative writers and
editors who reach across from their niches - but they remain the
exceptions rather than the rules.
To me one of the saddest events of the 70s was the death of John Riley in
1978, at the height of his writing. Apart from losing a key writer, and -
to me - a key element in the first generation "Cambridge" mix, his death
destabilised the Grosseteste programme - books and magazine - which I feel
was a vital link-maker in the mix at that time. I don't think I've ever
used "apart from" in such an insensitive way.
Hope this helps - I look forward to hearing more of the exhibition, which
sounds just the kind of bridge-building we need.
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