Chris Beckett writes:
The small press publisher Peter Hodgkiss begins his memoir essay âItâs All in the Garageâ contemplating âa tatty cardboard boxâ with âGDPâ written in fading red felt-tip pen on the side: âIt has moved from landing to attic to garage 1 to garage 2 in two houses in Newcastle to its present residence in Whitley Bayâ (Cusp: Recollections of Poetry in Transition, ed. Geraldine Monk, 2012). That tatty box of Galloping Dog Press books (1974-91), plus the original author manuscripts and associated correspondence, now has a new and settled home, as do comprehensive sets of files relating to the two magazines Hodgkiss edited, typed and printed concurrently: Poetry Information (1970-80) and Not Poetry (1980-85). Peter Hodgkiss has generously donated his publishing archive to the British Library.
Galloping Dog Press logo (from Gustave DorĂ©, Don Quixote)
Hodgkiss recalls that the origin of the name of his press was serendipitous: reading Ulysses at the time, and living not far from Swansea beach, he drew the name from Joyceâs description of the dog on Sandymount Strand in Episode 3 (âProteusâ). But serendipity aside, it is entirely fitting that Galloping Dog Press should owe its name to one of the great ur-texts of modernism: the writers and poets Hodgkiss published â and documented in Poetry Information â set their compasses by modernismâs experimental star. They learned their âABCâs and âdoâsâ and âdonâtsâ of best imagist practice from Ezra Pound, took their metrical lead from the âvariable footâ of William Carlos Williams, and avidly read contemporary American poetry (the biggest influence of all) from the Beats to the post-war schools of Black Mountain, New York and San Francisco. Closer to home, they cherished the Northumbrian modernist Basil Bunting. Bunting had appeared in Poundâs combative Active Anthology (Faber, 1933), although years of obscurity followed. In 1966, however, prompted by the curiosity and enthusiasm of a young Newcastle poet called Tom Pickard, Bunting published to great acclaim the long poem Briggflatts (significantly, with non-mainstream Fulcrum Press). Poetry Information 19 (1978) was a âBasil Bunting Special Issueâ. Bob Cobbingâs (75th birthday) âpoem for two voices for basil buntingâ was reprinted on the back cover:
Geraldine Monkâs introduction to Cusp highlights the regional origins of a âseemingly spontaneous outbreak of poetries and poetry communitiesâ in the 1960s. As one thread, however, within a larger pattern of creative renewal across all the arts during a dynamic period of great social and technological change, the case of poetry was not unique. The contribution of Butlerâs far-reaching Education Act (1944) to this renewal, which bore a strongly working-class stamp, from poetry to music to film, cannot be over-estimated. Regional origins are reflected in the two publishing locations of GDP â first Swansea, then Newcastle â and in the geographical spread of the authors Hodgkiss published in the 1970s and 1980s, which included for good international measure two Americans and a Canadian: Gilbert Adair, Guy Birchard, Paul Brown, Bill Butler, Richard Caddel, David Chaloner, Bob Cobbing, Kelvin Corcoran, Owen Davis, Ken Edwards, Clayton Eshelman, Peter Finch, John Freeman, Alan Halsey, Lee Harwood, Ralph Hawkins, Jeremy Hilton, Tony Jackson, Nigel Jenkins, Peter Larkin, Tom Leonard, Phil Maillard, Eric Mottram, John Muckle, Maggie OâSullivan, Maurice Scully, Gavin Selerie, Colin Simms, and Chris Torrance.
Tom Leonard, Ghostie Men (1980). Richard Caddel and Lee Harwood, Wine Tales (1984).
But London cannot, of course, be left out of the picture. The extensive small press network within which Hodgkiss operated formed part of what is usually referred to today as the âBritish Poetry Revivalâ. Coined by Eric Mottram â editor of the Poetry Societyâs Poetry Review throughout the journalâs most radical period (1971-77) â the name he attached to the diverse movement was deliberately polemical. Just as the title of Poundâs Active Anthology had implied the relative inactivity of other poets, so the notion of a revival in poetryâs fortunes implied a base condition of moribund decline. The tussle for the centre ground of contemporary poetry settled upon the premises â and print room â of the Poetry Society, then located in Earls Court. The history of the years in which a more radical and modernist vision held sway at the Society (in 1972, Bunting was elected the Societyâs President) has been told by Peter Barry in the aptly-named history Poetry Wars (2006).
Hodgkiss served as a Member of the General Council of the Poetry Society in the final Mottram years (1975-77). Although he moved away from the capital, the drive to publish was nurtured in London. It was in London that Hodgkiss first got his hands dirty. In its final years, Galloping Dog Press ventured into publishing typeset books, but Hodgkiss recalls that his âheart was really in the muck and sweat of the clunky and irritating business of feeding that bloody duplicator & swirling that bloody guillotine handle and gluing those bloody pages togetherâŠ.â
Hodgkissâs archive complements the archives at the British Library of two contemporaneous poets, both of whom he published, and both of whom were also General Council Members of the Poetry Society: Bob Cobbing (1920-2002) and Lee Harwood (1939-2015). The range of their work is a good indication of the richness of influence that permeated the British Poetry Revival. Sound and visual poet Bob Cobbing, who ran the longstanding small press Writers Forum â and got his hands muckier than anyone â drew inspiration from the international concrete poetry movement and from the sound poetry of Kurt Schwitters and Henri Chopin. Lee Harwood edited several short-run magazines in the 1960s. His poetry was greatly influenced by the New York schoolâs arch blend of French literature and pop art, and he also translated the poetry of the Dadaist Tristan Tzara.
Literary magazines and small press publications have always been associated with experiment and innovation. Peter Hodgkissâs endeavours over a twenty-year-period â and especially during the 1980s when poetryâs public pendulum, if not its less visible course, swung in the direction of literary conservatism â were a vital contribution to this vanguard mission. Today, the internet and the rise of print-on-demand publishing have brought back into circulation the work of many poets who were active in the 1960s and 1970s but whose work had all but disappeared from view. Paradoxically, the burgeoning digital environment has led to increasing scholarly interest in the evidential value of paper records. The publishing archive of Peter Hodgkiss is a fascinating set of primary documents from a distant recent past.