Sunday, 31 March 2013

Late news about Trent Bookshop has just come in

Geraldine Monk has edited a book of "recollections of poetry in transition" called Cusp (Shearsman), something she describes as a collective autobiography  of those involved in writing and publishing poetry between WWII and the advent of the world wide web. Clearly Geraldine sees the web as - hit me for using the phrase - a game changer - but the strength of the book is in the articles by people who are mostly in their seventies discussing their golden age. And, from here, it looked golden, with a tremendous flourishing of small presses  and reading series. The same names crop up again and again in the articles - Morden Tower, Tom Pickard, Jon Silkin, Basil Bunting, David Tipton, the Liverpool Poets, the Oriel Bookshop in Wales, Poetmeat, Poetry Information... This from a time not only before the internet but at a time when not everyone had a telephone. How did people organise then?
The best writer of the little press world is included - Jim Burns with the wonderfully titled chapter "The Left Bank of the Ribble" and this is followed by Hannah Neate on the Trent Book Shop in Nottingham. What? I had to sit down...
When I came to Nottingham in 1979 there was one very strong radical bookshop, opened in 1972, the remnants of a Communist Party shop and a soon to close Pathfinder (Trotskyist) Bookshop, but several people had mentioned Bux, an avant garde shop that had got into financial difficulties and closed in 1972. Actually, few people mentioned it. And here it was in its earlier, more successful life as the Trent Book Shop, by the Nottingham Forest ground, specialising in small press books from all over the UK, America and elsewhere. In all it ran from 1964-1972. Hannah Neate has written a superb description of the bookshop's life, its holdings, its own publishing and its reading. And I never knew a thing about it, despite working in bookselling and publishing in the city since I arrived.
I immediately rang my friend John Lucas from Shoestring, who both knows Hannah and was a regular customer of the shop - saying that the Trent bookshop was often packed on match days with Forest supporters calling in to pick up the latest poetry. Somehow he - and all the other veterans who must have used the shop - had never mentioned it.
And what of Poetry 66 - the shop's poetry festival? Here's the line up: Adrian Mitchell, Robert Garioch, Alan Brownjohn, Hugh MacDiarmid, Edward Lucie-Smith, Bob Cobbing, Dom Sylvester Houedard, Tom Pickard, George Macbeth, Edwin Morgan, Jon Silkin, Roy Fisher, Anselm Hollo, Ed Dorn, Michael Shayer, Ron Johnson, Gael Turnbull, Jonathan Williams, Jeff Nuttall, John Furnival, Cavan McCarthy, John James, Nick Wayte, Peter Armstrong, Andrew Crozier, Tom Clark, Pete Brown, Tom McGrath, Brian Patten, Adrian Henri, Michael Horovitz, Spike Hawkins, Nathanial Tarn, Vernon Scannell, GS Fraser and Jim Burns.
Crikey, one small bomb would have wiped out almost the entire small press scene of the time. Apart from women. There were of course fewer women involved in the small press scene then than now, but a festival with this sort of line up and NO women? I asked John Lucas who said this was noticed and he organised a sort of protest reading with a fine woman poet from Nottingham of that period, Madge Hales. But even so, this was some line up and indicative of the national and international contacts Trent had.
This was the period of Ultima Thule in Newcastle, Better Books and Indica in London, the Paperback Bookshop in Edinburgh (where I was a regular customer), Unicorn in Brighton - all of which I knew of, and all of which I'd read about. Yet somehow the news of this shop, down the road from me, was news.
And the rest of the book is fascinating too.


collectedworks said...

Read yr blog post abt CUSP via Geraldine's email. Although I was in Southampton then and hardly on any scene, and just about to saila way to Melbourne on the 10Pound assisted passage scheme, "Nottingham" was a particular reference. The Trent Bookshop reading you describe must have been great! I'm wondering if i might be permitted to 'share' yr post to my Facebook page here in Melbourne? Best wishes, Kris Hemensley

Ross Bradshaw said...

Kris - of course. Long time since I can remember anyone mentioning the £10 assisted passage scheme!