Poetic experiments and trans-national exchange : the Little Magazines Migrant (1959-1960) and Poor.Old.Tired.Horse. (1962-1967)
Migrant (1959-1960) and Poor.Old.Tired.Horse.(1962-1967) were two little magazines edited respectively by British poets Gael Turnbull and Ian Hamilton Finlay. This thesis aims to explore the magazines’ contributions to the diversification of British poetry in the 1960s, via their commitment to transnational exchange and publication of innovative poetries. My investigation is grounded on the premise that little magazines, as important but neglected socio-literary forms, provide a nuanced picture of literary history by revealing the shifting activities and associations between groups of writers and publishers. Drawing on Pierre Bourdieu and Pascale Casanova, I argue that Migrant and Poor.Old.Tired.Horse were exceptionally outward-looking publications bringing various kinds of poetic forms, both historical and contemporary, local and international, to new audiences, and creating literary networks in the process. A brief overview of the post-war British poetry scene up until 1967, and the role of little magazines within this period, will contextualize Turnbull’s and Finlay’s activities as editors and publishers. Migrant is examined as a documentation of Turnbull’s early years as a poet-publisher in Britain, Canada, and the US. I argue that Turnbull’s magazine is at once a manifestation of the literary friendships he forged, a negotiation of American poetic theories, and a formulation of a new British-American literary network. Identifying Charles Olson’s ‘Projective Verse’ manifesto as a particular influence on Turnbull, I examine aspects of Olson’s conceptualization of poetry as a dynamic process of unfolding in the content and ethos of Migrant. Finlay’s attitudes to internationalism and use of vernacular speech in poetry are compared to those of Hugh MacDiarmid to demonstrate that Poor.Old.Tired.Horse. emerged out of both a rejection and engagement with an older generation of Scottish writers. The content and organisation of the magazine, I argue, bear Finlay’s consideration of art as play. Drawing on Ludwig Wittgenstein’s positing of language as games, I examine the magazine as a series of playful procedures where a variety of formal experimentations were enacted.