Sunday, 17 January 2010

The names of the forgotten

Penniless Press is a literary journal appearing roughly quarterly, but so roughly quarterly that about once a year I think "Hang on, has my sub run out or has it got lost in the post?" This time, wandering through its website ( to check - and, dear reader, allow time for a wander as the route is not linear - I found The Penniless Press Reader, available for £8.18 (sic) plus postage. The book is printed on demand from Lulu and arrived in about four or five days. No ISBN so this seems the only way to obtain a copy. But well worth while. Penniless Press is produced in the most basic format, but includes excellent writing including important essays by John Lucas and that small press hero Jim Burns. The best essays and some poetry from issues 1-26, from 1995-2008 are included here, good value at over 400 pages.

I've lifted a chapter heading from the book as the subject of this post in gentle admiration not scorn that the Reader includes chapters on many people who are less well known than they once were (like Irving Howe) or the barely remembered at all (come in Maxwell Bodenheim).

Five Leaves' writers John Lucas and Andy Croft are well represented (and from our Nottinghamshire base the late Leslie Williamson writing about DH Lawrence's friend Willie Hopkin, who Les knew well in Eastwood when he was young). With the possible exception of S. Kadison and the certain exception of Elizabeth Howkins all the contributors to the book are chaps, unusual these days in a literary mag.

If I could describe Penniless in a sentence it would be (from an editorial in issue three) that "Literature should be written for enthusiasts by enthusiasts, and when someone ask you about a writer, talk about the writing and ignore the prizes."

Alan Dent, the editor, is known to have his heart on the left, which adds something to his use of as printer of the last issue of the magazine found on my shelves. And that reminds me that the late Poetry Nottingham used to be printed by the Christian Duplicating Services. I hope they only duplicated sheets of paper.

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