University of Worcester Worcester Research and Publications

MIGRANT Press (Revisited)

Gubb, Mark ORCID: (2017) MIGRANT Press (Revisited). [Show/Exhibition]

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Group exhibition based on the history and Legacy of Migrant Press.

"Looking back it is hard not to conclude that the little poetry magazine Migrant, co-edited by Gael Turnbull and Michael Shayer from 1959-1960 was a creative writing venture that generated a critical context for itself without ever becoming a platform in the local sense (hence the complete absence of ephemera in the Worcester City Archives), as it was short lived and innovative, ahead of its time but also obscure.

Mimeographed on a Sears Roebuck duplicator by Turnbull in his garage in Ventura, California, and supported by Shayer from an address in Worcester, Migrant’s original run of 8 bi-monthly issues only found its unique graphic style from number 3 onwards: a powder blue cover with the title in sans serif block capitals, and stapled pale lemon pages that hosted a range of poems and short prose printed out in a Courier typewriter font; slightly smudgy, also faint here and there.

As a shoestring self-publishing project with largely modernist content, Migrant was a reflection of the values and aspirations of its organisers, a critical reaction to the dull conformity of the Movement school, but also ambiguous about American Beat poetics.

According to Roy Fisher, Turnbull kept “clear of the activities of self-congratulatory but incurious amateurism”, so “he could roam free in the floating world of little magazines and quixotic publications”. As such Migrant could be said to represent a third way: a hybrid of Objectivism, Black Mountain College aesthetics, with a nod to English provincial vernaculars, a groundbreaking part of what Geraldine Monk has called a poetry “insurgence” that was located away from London in unfashionable northern conurbations.

Run on a voluntary subscription basis, a chat room for poets by poets, Migrant had affinities with Vorticism and Mass-Observation too, occasionally including collage and tape transcript, both novel for the time in England.

It could be argued that the aims and method of distribution of Migrant were a form of early mail art, whereby a loose grouping of like-minded writers got to know each other and their work via contributing to the magazine, and being part of a postal network.

Zinelike Migrant exerted an influence on subsequent countercultural publications such as Ian Hamilton Finlay’s Poor. Old. Tired. Horse., Jeff Nuttall’s DIY My Own Mag and Bob Cobbing’s Writer’s Forum stuff.

After the discontinuation of the magazine, Migrant Press was established, leading to a series of pamphlets such as Birmingham born Roy Fisher’s protopunkish City (1960) -described by critic Andrew Duncan as “the first modern book of British poetry”- Michael Shayer’s Worcester ode Persephone (1961), and Cream lyricist Pete Brown’s Few (1966). Following his return to Worcester/Malvern in 1964, Turnbull would retool Migrant Press as a distributor of American imported material, a think-tank for new poetics as much as a label, with a strong emphasis on performance too, eventually resulting in the Live New Departures gig at the ICA in 1975 that featured voices associated with Migrant Press.

Questions remain about the extent to which a regional cultural product/producer such as Migrant can be said to be still present today as an early aquarian revenant or spectre in terms of poetry, visual art or psycho-geography, and how its hermeneutic reawakening both via archival evidence as well as the noise of developing conversation, ie methods that embrace the possibility of unexpected outcomes here and now, actually enables a resonant contemporary space of meta-creativity to emerge, one whose objects and indeed post-objects (ie immaterial work) go well beyond the narrow remit of heritage.

But as Daniel Penny asks in ‘The Irrelevant and the Contemporary’ “Why is poetry #trending in contemporary art?”, neatly taxonomising the influence of the muse as/on dry goods, concept, performance and post-internet. - Michael Hampton 2016"

Item Type: Show/Exhibition
Uncontrolled Discrete Keywords: Migrant Press, Division of Labour, Worcester, underground press, beat poets
Subjects: N Fine Arts > N Visual arts (General) For photography, see TR
N Fine Arts > NE Print media
N Fine Arts > NX Arts in general
P Language and Literature > PN Literature (General) > PN0441 Literary History
Divisions: College of Arts, Humanities and Education > School of Arts
Related URLs:
Copyright Info: S Mark Gubb 2017
Depositing User: Mark Gubb
Date Deposited: 06 Jan 2021 10:16
Last Modified: 06 Jan 2021 10:16

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