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Migrant the Magnificent

In July 1959 several hundred copies of a magazine emerged from the house of a British doctor, then living in Ventura, California. They were posted to poets across the United States, Canada and the British Isles. With a light blue cover and soft yellow pages the magazine was unconventional but welcoming in design. The printing, from an unsophisticated Sears Roebuck duplicator, had the look of a typewriter. The homespun atmosphere was also underlined by the text only appearing on one side of the page. Despite this – or, rather, because of it - Dr. Turnbull, later better known as the poet Gael Turnbull, had started one of the most influential poetry magazines of the last half of the century. It would only run until September 1960, when its eighth issue brought the magazine to a close. Nevertheless,  quietly, exploratively, and with the invaluable British editing of his old schoolfriend Michael Shayer, Migrant heralded the decade of ideas and creativity now thought of as the Sixties.

The Play Way

Born in Edinburgh in 1928, Gael Turnbull was the son of a Scottish minister and an American of Swedish descent. The family lived where his father preached, first in Jarrow and then, from 1934 to 1939, in Blackpool. At the beginning of the Second World War the family emigrated to Winnipeg in Canada. Turnbull returned to England in 1944 where he was a boarder at Perse School, Cambridge. It was here that he met fellow-student Michael Shayer. They were to be life-long friends.

Perse School’s English Department particularly emphasised the teaching of drama through the students’ performance of texts, an approach known as “the Play Way”. A dedicated theatrical space, “The Mummery”, was set aside for just this and the idea of literature as an aural form made a profound impression on the two boys. Both were later to lay emphasis on the performance of poetry.

The friends were able science students, however, and each decided to study natural sciences rather than literature at Cambridge (Turnbull at Christ’s College, Shayer at Clare). Shayer, who had joined the student mountaineering club, broke his leg while climbing in the Lake District. His hospitalisation for three months intensified his interest in writing: a friendly hospital orderly lent him James Joyce’s Ulysses (the official book trolley did not contain it), an experience Shayer regarded as life-changing. On his return to college he asked to be transferred to an English degree but was persuaded to stay with natural sciences. His tutor persuaded him that great writing did not necessarily require the formal study of English.

North America

After Cambridge, Turnbull moved back to North America, successfully completing a medical degree at the University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, while, back in England, Shayer served two years National Service with Shell. They corresponded and also exchanged ‘audio letters’ recorded on the predecessor of the cassette (extracts from this type of recording would later be transcribed in Migrant). Soon Shayer joined Turnbull in Philadelphia which was enjoying a quietly bohemian arts scene: the two would visit “The Heel”, the Horn and Hardart cafeteria where classical musicians, actors, and poets would meet, and they’d attend plays and poetry readings, one by E. E. Cummings.

In 1952 Turnbull married Jonnie Draper, a drama student at Pittsburgh’s Carnegie Institute of Technology (which, despite its applied sciences focus, had a celebrated liberal arts programme). However, a new law meant that even non-nationals resident in the United States could and would be called up for the Korean War. The friends sought to avoid this. Shayer boarded the Queen Mary back to England. Turnbull took a ‘day trip’ bus to Montreal, to be joined by Jonnie travelling on the train: in Canada they made their new home.

After requalifying, Gael was able to practice medicine in Iroquois Falls, Northern Ontario. During this period he corresponded with many Canadian poets, and was especially associated with Contact, a magazine and small press edited by Raymond Souster. He co-translated several Francophone Quebec poets with Jean Beaupré, including Hector de Saint-Denys-Garneau and Roland Guiguère. These translations were published in very limited editions in association with Contact. As Phyllis Webb later recalled, “Gael had quickly and astutely diagnosed the need for more communication between French-speaking and English-speaking writers in Canada and set out to remedy the situation.” (Phyllis Webb, “Air, Air” in Peter McCarey (ed.), A Gathering for Gael Turnbull (Au Quai, 1998).

Origin and Black Mountain Review

The American poet and editor Cid Corman had first published a poem by Gael Turnbull in the Spring 1954 issue of Origin. Turnbull was in good company: that issue also featured work by several significant poets of the period, including Robert Creeley, William Carlos Williams, Robert Duncan and Charles Olson. Denise Levertov guest-edited a further edition of Origin (XIII; Summer 1954) in which Turnbull had more of his work published and Corman published one of Turnbull’s first books in the Origin Press imprint, the Nordic dramatic monologues of Bjarni Spike-Helgi and other poems (1956).

At this time Black Mountain College, the experimental arts college in North Carolina, was in its last creative phase before its eventual closure in 1956. Charles Olson was its Rector and Creeley was editing Black Mountain Review (1954-1957). The magazine featured many of the poets that Corman had been publishing (Paul Blackburn, Louis Zukofsky, Denise Levertov, Charles Olson, Robert Duncan, were perhaps the core of Black Mountain poetry). The Review also reproduced the work of modern artists such as Philip Guston and Franz Kline. A student of photography at Black Mountain, Jonathan Williams, ran the press Jargon Society, and distributed the Review outside of New York (presumably left alone because Paul Blackburn was able to distribute the magazine there). An energetic correspondent, Turnbull was in touch with most of these figures and began to develop a network of very individual modern poets, soon to be among the contributors to (and select audience of) Migrant.

He was also valued by editors as someone with his ear to the ground in territories with which they were less familiar. In 1957 (back now in England) he guest-edited an element of the last issue of Origin, seeking work from then relatively unknown English poets such as Roy Fisher and Alan Brownjohn. He canvassed poetry from Philip Larkin, though with less positive results. Larkin, while initially sending poems, withdrew them by registered post after seeing a sample issue. (See Roy Fisher, in conversation with John Tranter, Jacket 1 (Dec. 2001)). Later, Migrant would publish an article by Brownjohn that compared Larkin and Creeley and suggested in fact a degree of complementariness: despite Larkin’s refusal to be part of the avant-garde, the editors of Migrant were very open to aesthetic difference.

If guest-editing was one of the ways that Turnbull began to learn the skills of an editor, and helped him develop British and American contacts for Migrant, the closure of Black Mountain Review in Autumn 1957 and of Origin with the Winter issue of that same year may have set Turnbull thinking about Migrant as a magazine to answer the gap. However, by this time Turnbull was back in England again, surveying the British scene.



Migrant Books c/o National Provincial Bank

In 1955 Gael Turnbull returned to England from Canada, settling in Worcester from 1956-1958. In late 1956, he set up Migrant Books as a UK distributor of books by Divers Press, Origin Press and Jargon Society. These presses published the work of his old friends in the American avant-garde poets, Creeley, Corman, and Olson (Creeley in fact was Divers Press and Corman Origin). Their work was very little known in the United Kingdom, though it had appeared in little magazines that Turnbull had read with fascination: John Sankey’s Window (London) – where Turnbull appears to have first seen Roy Fisher’s poetry - Robert Cooper’s Artisan (Liverpool) and W. Price Turner’s The Poet (Glasgow). All of these magazines had closed by the end of 1956.

It is noticeable that there had been a strong provincial element to this first wave: the established and centralised conduits appear generally not to have been finely tuned enough to detect, receive or understand the new poetry; or, if they did understand, like Larkin they did not at all like it. Migrant Books as a distributor was therefore an important way of opening the doors wider in Britain to experimental American work. Turnbull was helped in this by the poet and editor W. Price Turner who gave him a copy of the The Poet’s mailing list. By the same token, the major British writers later associated with Migrant would also be based outside of London, Oxford, or Cambridge: Roy Fisher (Birmingham), Ian Hamilton Finlay (at this period, various locations in Scotland), and Edwin Morgan (Glasgow).

Perhaps most significantly in these early years, Migrant distributed Charles Olson’s Maximus Poems. Prime examples of what Olson called Projective Verse, a freer poetry that used the space of the page with a sense of exploration and the breath of the voice as a marker of rhythm, they had been published by Jonathan Williams, 1-10 in 1953 and 11-22 in 1956, but with no British distributor. Turnbull sought to correct this: after buying stock, he simply stamped the colophon with Migrant Books c/o National Provincial Bank, Worcester, and began to distribute them using his growing address book as a mailing list. The bank was used effectively as a post restante address, presumably while he sought a more permanent home. Because so many of Turnbull’s correspondents were poets Migrant Books became an early and key bridge across the Atlantic between British and American avant-garde writers.

It was during this time in England that Turnbull met Roy Fisher and encouraged him to think of himself in the company of the authors Turnbull knew and championed. Almost like a manuscript pre-cursor of Migrant, Turnbull kept a notebook into which he would copy interesting poems he liked and he would then show this to fellow poets: this was how Roy Fisher first came to know the work of Basil Bunting, later celebrated as the author of the long poem Briggflatts. As Roy Fisher would remember: “I met Gael Turnbull and I was exposed on one day to Olson, Creeley, Bunting, Zukofsky, Duncan, Ginsberg, Corso, Ferlinghetti, Ray Souster and, most of all, William Carlos Williams.” (quoted in Michael Peter Ryan, “Career Patterns among Contemporary British Poets” unpublished PhD dissertation, University of London, p.86; itself quoted in Simon Jarvis, “A Burning Monochrome: Fisher’s Block”, in Kerrigan and Robinson (eds.), The Thing About Roy Fisher: Critical Studies,  Liverpool University Press, 2000, p.189).

Turnbull and Shayer must also have remembered their days in Perse School and its emphasis on the performance of literature. They were certainly aware of the burgeoning folk scene in England; in fact they read alongside these musicians at folk venues. Shayer was determined to get away from the idea of poets hiding away behind the book or typescript they were reading from: like folk performers he would recite his text from memory; and, again like that of the musicians, the text might well be the work of someone else (in Shayer’s case, Robert Creeley especially). Later, in the Sixties, authors associated with Migrant performed their work on a Migrant ‘platform’. This took place at the Edinburgh Festival as early as 1961 and at other venues, including one reading in Dulwich in 1962 with the younger poet Tom Raworth, editor of Outburst. There were Migrant readings at the Traverse Theatre in 1963, too.

Migrant’s first book appeared in 1957: The Whip by Creeley. This was a three-way publication between Migrant, Jonathan Williams and the press that had published Turnbull in Canada, Contact Press (Toronto). It was printed in Mallorca, where Creeley lived, almost certainly under Creeley’s supervision. However, it would not be until Turnbull took control of the printing process himself that more of Migrant’s own publications would appear, and with regularity. This happened after Gael had again been on the move: he moved back to America in 1958.

Migrant the Magazine

In Autumn 1958 Turnbull moved to Ventura California, where he practised as an anaesthetist. He bought a Sears Roebuck duplicator and began to publish Migrant.

Jonnie Turnbull, Gael’s first wife, recalls the first attempts:

When Gael decided to start up a little mag, the first hint of what he intended came when he suddenly appeared one afternoon carrying what looked like a large, very cumbersome piece of junk.  It was an old mimeograph machine which he had found downtown in a ‘second-hand’ shop.  My first reaction was, “You’re not serious”; and I tried not to laugh or be too disparaging when he finally, proudly, had it set up.  It was ancient – a far cry from the electric machine I had used at secretarial school  “What’re you going to do with it?” I asked.  “Start a magazine,” he replied.

As soon as we discovered what an inky mess the thing was, it was immediately relegated to the end of the workbench in the garage.  It consumed and exuded heavy black ink to such an extent, the stuff got everywhere – hands, clothes, floor, bench-top, the paper-feed and the exit tray, tea mugs – never mind the drum and stencil to which it was supposed to be confined.  The wipe-up cloth was always useless.

Undeterred though, Gael was soon cranking out the sheets of the first issue of Migrant.  He happily shared the garage with black-widow spiders, the occasional tarantula, the guinea-pigs in the cage on the workbench, and the cat and cat-basket beneath.  Sometimes there was even a roadrunner speeding past the garage-door, up from the ravine, or – when you went outside – a great black condor circling high beyond the upper-terrace.  I saw it once – Gael a couple times.

(Jonnie Turnbull, “Migrant Reminiscences”, in PS [the Prose Supplement to Painted, spoken], No. 1 (2006))

The first issue captured the spirit of Migrant: an epigraph taken from Samuel Johnson that emphasised literature that was plainspeaking and rooted in everyday speech, there was a charming poem about writing sad books by Pierre Delattre (later better-known as an artist), six poems by Edward [Ed] Dorn; poems by Turnbull himself (disguised as Thomas Lundin), French literature in translation (Leon Bloy translated by Michael Shayer); and an extract from an anonymous letter intended to stimulate debate. Extracts from letters were used in this way throughout the run of Migrant, producing a questioning, thought-provoking, open collage of texts as counterpoint to the crafted poems. The experiences of the manager of an English launderette were also included, establishing connection to a wider world, playing with literary register, and establishing a sense of social context, in a similar spirit, as Shayer has observed, to Mass Observation.

From the start, Turnbull decided that it would not be aimed at the ‘general reader’, though anyone interested was encouraged to subscribe. It was essentially for poets. Subscription was a voluntary affair: “Subscription is by donation, even a few stamps will be of help; or just a postcard to indicate that you would like to receive it regularly.” (When Corman re-started Origin in the Sixties he would adopt this approach, too.)

By the second issue, the Canadian poet Ray Souster made an entrance, and the Black Mountain connection hinted at by the inclusion of Dorn in the first issue, was now in full swing: Creeley, Corman, and Duncan all had work included. Later issues would include Denise Levertov, Larry Eigner, the Canadian Jay Macpherson,  the English poets Charles Tomlinson, Hugh Creighton Hill, and in the fifth issue, Roy Fisher and Edwin Morgan (translating Mayakovsky into Scots), followed by Alan Brownjohn (comparing Robert Creeley with Philip Larkin in issue 6 (May 1960)), “The Drama of Utterance” (Hugh Kenner, in issue 7 (July 1960)) [on William Carlos Williams, a presiding spirit of Migrant]; Ian [Hamilton] Finlay; Henri Michaux, trans. by Raymond Federman. Finally in issue 8 (Sept. 1960), there was Edwin Morgan (translating Pasternak),  a prose piece by Charles Olson, German translations by Anselm Hollo, the Canadian Louis Dudek, translations of Georg Trakl by Helmut Bonheim; more Duncan and more Fisher.

There were some reviews: Shayer wrote a supportive article on Don’t Look Back in Anger, Turnbull (as Lundin again) one on Gregory Corso’s Bomb.  As well as letters about literature and about the magazine, usually published without their authors’ names, Migrant also transcribed tape recordings and reproduced diary entries, contributing to the collage. The magazine must have been an extraordinary eye-opener to its readers, welcoming both European and North American poetry in the same breath as it asserted the value of new English and Scottish poetry.

It seems puzzling that it should have closed so quickly. In 1960, however, Turnbull and Shayer began to move Migrant more in the direction of book production and in the September of that year the last issue of the magazine was issued. It appears that the magazine had helped some of its authors towards more extensive work, building a collection, say, and certainly becoming more self-conscious  - and more internationally aware – in their work. In that year Migrant Press, as a book imprint, published an early appreciation of Charles Olson’s poetry, Ed Dorn’s What I See in the Maximus Poems; Matthew Mead’s A Poem in Nine Parts; and Ian Hamilton Finlay’s The Dancers Inherit the Party. The magazine may have closed, but this was because the scene, as it were, had now been set: books themselves were to carry on the Migrant idea.

Nineteen sixty-one was characterised by a new Migrant booklet every couple of months or so: books by Anselm Hollo, Edwin Morgan, Roy Fisher, Shayer, and Hugh Creighton-Hill. Turnbull and Shayer were especially encouraged by the success of Finlay’s book, his first book of poems, whose edition of 200 copies had sold so well a second edition was produced in 1962, and Finlay’s work was to be profoundly influenced by the ethos of Migrant. As Shayer became more experienced in the production of books, Migrant publications became more professional in appearance: Pete Brown’s Few (1966) has a typeface and design beautifully suited to the humour of the poems, Anselm Hollo’s & It Is A Song is also very attractively designed, with musical notes integrated into the cover’s look.

Ian Hamilton Finlay

One of the most significant poets that Michael Shayer as British editor introduced to Migrant was Ian Hamilton Finlay. Finlay and Shayer corresponded and soon there were more poems than could be published in the magazine. From this relative abundance came The Dancers Inherit the Party (1960), perhaps the press’s greatest commercial success, requiring and receiving a second edition within two years.  Although Finlay has since acquired a forbidding reputation these poems are fun, fey, almost musical; they are also often amusingly sly. The elements of whimsy and lightness are arguably part of a more serious questioning about the nature of poetry (and being), with Finlay’s work attempting to widen widen poetry’s field to non-traditional areas, with a particular emphasis on play.

Migrant Press circumvented the traditional publishing establishment which may have wondered about putting a Finlay in print, but the imprint did much more. Shayer and Turnbull showed Finlay that it was relatively easy to set up a pamphlet imprint (Finlay soon established his own, The Wild Hawthorn Press); and that a magazine was also relatively easy to manage : with Jessie McGuffie and P. Pond [i.e. the blues singer Paul Jones], Finlay set up his magazine Poor. Old. Tired. Horse. soon after, in 1962. For a poet who wanted to learn from others as much as communicate his own sensibilities, one of the best activities to master is that of magazine editor, as Turnbull and Shayer had, and for five years Finlay’s magazine published sound, concrete and minimalist poetry from Brazil, the Soviet Union, Cuba, France, the United States, England and Scotland. Finlay already had European reference points in his aesthetic but Migrant appears to have greatly widened his American knowledge: Dancers Inherit the Party was sent to writers such as Robert Creeley, Louis Zukofsky and Lorine Neidecker, the latter recognising a kindred spirit in Finlay and beginning an important if brief creative correspondence with him. (See Gael Turnbull, “Dancing for an hour” in Chapman No. 78-79 (1994), and other articles in that issue)

Sadly, a decade later, a dispute between Finlay and the publisher Stuart Montgomery over a new edition of The Dancers Inherit the Party  appears to have contributed to the downfall of one of the best poetry imprints to emerge in the 1960s, Montgomery’s Fulcrum Press. Montgomery had wanted to publish The Dancers Inherit the Party and very much had Turnbull and Shayer’s blessing to do so. However, his wish to designate it a first edition, rather than the third edition it actually was, attracted Finlay’s anger and resulted in an expensive court case which Montgomery lost, a serious financial blow to Fulcrum (and, because of Fulcrum’s significance, to the professional marketing and distribution of left-of-field poetry in the UK). The publisher seems to have been severely weakened by this, as well as by a flood which damaged stock, and Fulcrum closed in the mid 1970s.

Basil Bunting and Roy Fisher

Basil Bunting is a poet now recognised as one of England’s greatest modernists. He was the only British author included in Zukofsky’s 1930s anthology of “Objectivist” poets and though later the author of the celebrated Briggflatts (1966), when Gael Turnbull first met him he was more of a past poet than, as it were, a living one. Gael Turnbull knew Bunting’s poems from the Cleaners Press edition, Poems 1950, which he had seen in America in the first half of the 1950s: it was from that book that he had copied out poems into his commonplace book. Turnbull appears to have sought him out in 1956, when Bunting was working as a journalist in Newcastle and Turnbull was back in England. Bunting responded to the formal engagement of the younger man’s poetry in a letter of January 1957: “It is so long since I saw anything worked out to its final simplicity and elegance except by hands even older than my own that I find it difficult to know how to praise your gift without seeming to overpraise it.” It was at this stage that they also began a correspondence that lasted for many years.

It is likely that the friendship and encouragement of Turnbull and Shayer (who also visited Bunting) prepared the ground for the catalytic effect of Tom Pickard’s later interest, Bunting re-applying himself to poetry in the 1960s, with the eventual result of Briggflatts. In fact The Spoils (1965) was mooted as a Migrant Press book, but the better production and design that could be offered by Pickard’s Morden Tower Bookroom, with Richard Hamilton’s images, meant that Turnbull and Shayer were happy to let it be published there, Migrant handling the distribution. Again, this is typical of the way that Turnbull and Shayer saw Migrant: it was a kind of creative think tank, with acknowledged limits. If a publisher could do better with and for the same author, once the potential had been glimpsed in a Migrant publication, then the editors appear to have been more than happy to see that author work with others – and they’d help with the publication if they could.

When Turnbull returned to England in 1964 he and Bunting renewed and strengthened their friendship. Bunting’s masterpiece Briggflatts was sent to Turnbull in various drafts for comment as the poem evolved. Michael Shayer recalls when he first heard Bunting read from Briggflatts, in fact when it was only two-thirds finished:

And then there was one evening when Gael had invited [Basil Bunting] down to stay. Gael was living in Cradley, just the other side of Malvern at the time and Gael had invited Basil down for several days and we had a flat in Worcester. First floor flat in Worcester which was convenient. And it was arranged that Basil would do a reading of some new poem that he was working on and we had quite a select audience there, whistled up at very little notice. My memory is that there was Roy [Fisher], I think there was Adrian Mitchell, there was, who else? Michael Butler was another, I should think and one other. Anyway there we were, five or six, or six or seven of us sitting in a sitting room and Basil started reading his bloody poem. It was coming out of nowhere, if you understand what I mean. There was nothing that prepared any of us for anything like that and I remember feeling that it had an enormously primitive and medieval in the sense of something going back a thousand years to Norse history or something. It had that sort of feeling to it. And on the one hand you heard it, in a sense that you heard the music of it, then there was this narrative of some kind coming in, that nothing could have prepared you for. And we were all bowled over by it but I don’t think any of us had any idea of what sort of thing this was. And another, the other thing about it that really struck me at the time was that he said that this was “part of a work in progress. This was about three of the five sections in it. And I’ve got an overall sense of what the overall structure of it is” and I thought how incredibly risky it was in the sense of giving hostages to fortune, to say that at that point on the other hand you have to remember that he had a whole lifetime of development behind him and he was absolutely in no doubt that he could do it. Whereas I, being much younger, would feel that if I were in that position I would keep it hugged to my chest. I wouldn’t reveal anything until I’d finished it. He was confident enough at that point, he knew he would do it. Unless he got killed on a railway or something. Then I think early in ’65 he’d finished it.

       (Michael Shayer, interviewed by Richard Price, in PS [prose supplement to Painted, spoken], No. 1 (2006))

Bunting would also read later parts of Briggflatts to informal gatherings, once when Hugh MacDiarmid and Turnbull were in the select audience. It is not at all surprising that Roy Fisher was in the audience at the reading Michael Shayer remembers (Roy Fisher recalls that the poet John James, a former student of Migrant associate Charles Tomlinson, was also there). Fisher’s first book City had been published by Migrant in 1961, with Shayer having strongly urged Fisher to publish it; Shayer appears to have contributed substantially to its arrangement, too. Migrant also published a supplement in 1962, The Hallucinations: City II, which would be issued with further sales of the original City. Later versions of City that Fisher collected include many of the pieces in City and City II, although the complete “Migrant City has never been reprinted, as such. It is surely a landmark in the urban poetry of Britain since the war: as dreamlike as it is analytical; songlike at one turn, descriptive at the next: “The society of singing birds and the society of mechanical hammers inhabit the world together, slightly ruffled and confined by each other’s presence.”

By the mid-sixties, Fisher had been co-opted as business manager for Migrant Press. However, Migrant as a publisher was beginning to fade: although the books by Pete Brown and Anselm Hollo showed that the imprint was getting on top of the design challenges of publishing, personal complications in the private lives of Turnbull and Shayer meant a diverting away of energy. Neither had the sensibility in any case for aggressive forms of marketing and distribution. Although there were occasional Migrant pamphlets until Gael Turnbull’s death in 2004, the press was essentially a fabulous creature of the 50s and 60s: which is to say, it anticipated and laid some of the foundations for everything since.

Shayer and Turnbull were arguably among the key poetry editors of the Fifties who kick-started the creativity of the Sixties small press poetry scene; in Eric Mottram’s famous phrase, “The British Poetry Revival”. While not at all being like them, they prepared the way, for example, for the ‘Cambridge School’ poets of the Sixties and early Seventies, a grouping, despite the name, as heterogeneous as the spirit of Migrant. J. H. Prynne may have come to the work of Olson and Black Mountain later than Turnbull and probably only indirectly through the Migrant publications (though he was an early reader of Dorn’s , but some of Prynne’s earliest published work - poems and an extract from a fascinating manifesto-like letter - were printed first in Mica, the American magazine edited by Turnbull’s friends Helmut Bonheim and Ray Federman as a direct successor to Migrant (Mica ran from 1961 to 1962). Migrant’s support for Edwin Morgan’s translations of Russian poetry into Scots, coupled with the Finlay success, also created new space within Scottish literature, a refreshing exploratory attitude which was as interested in the international as it was in the creative use of common speech. The interest in and friendship with Basil Bunting that Shayer and Turnbull extended were also critical factors in Bunting’s triumphant re-emergence.

Enthusiasm for the various American avant-gardes, an interest in translation, an acceptance of a variety of aesthetic approaches, a confidence in the independent voices of the new poetry of England and Scotland, and the command of the means of production by the artistic community itself: these are some of the key lessons that Migrant, among a few other select magazines, taught - and which the flourishing British poetry scene in the 1960s avidly learned.


I am especially grateful to Jonnie Turnbull, Jill Turnbull, Michael Shayer and Roy Fisher for help in the reconstruction of events. Gael Turnbull’s archive is held at the National Library of Scotland: my thanks to Robin Smith at the Department of Manuscripts for access to uncatalogued correspondence there. An account of Migrant is given by Gael Turnbull in Credences, Vol. 1 no. 2/3 (1981/82). I have also used Nicholas Johnson’s obituary of Gael Turnbull which appeared in The Independent, 7th July 2004.

I am grateful to Alexandra Sayer, my research assistant on “Migrant and the Poetry of Possibility”, the exhibition at the British Library, sponsored by the Folio Society, and to run from 19th January  to 25th March in 2007.

This work arose out of the writing of the book I have co-written with David Miller, British Poetry Magazines 1914-2000: a history and bibliography of ‘little magazines’, (British Library, 2006)

[A version of this article was first published in PN Review]

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