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  • Print publication year: 2013
  • Online publication date: December 2017

1 - ‘that trouble’: Regional Modernism and ‘little magazines’

Summary

This chapter starts by posing a simple and seemingly rather foolish question: why are there so few regional examples of modernist ‘little magazines’ in Britain and Ireland? The foolishness of the question might be because we all know that modernism was an international or transnational phenomenon, a matter of metropolitan perceptions and urban innovation. In other words, it happens in Bloomsbury and not Birmingham, since ‘Art is a matter of capitals’, and ‘Provincialism the Enemy’, to quote two slogans of Ezra Pound. Hence, it is not surprising to discover that the vast majority of the ‘little magazines’ that from the 1880s onwards published modern work in Britain were located primarily in London: The Yellow Book of Aubrey Beardsley and co., the Vorticism of Wyndham Lewis's Blast, the mix of feminism and modernism found in The Egoist, or the critical classicism of T. S. Eliot's The Criterion – these, and many others, were clearly located in the metropolis and embedded within a cultural infrastructure of bookshops, cafes, clubs, dining rooms, or discussion circles in central London.

This perception seems, initially, to be confirmed by the contents of volume I of The Critical and Cultural History of Modernist Magazines: of more than eighty magazines analysed in a volume devoted to Britain and Ireland, only around a quarter were not published in London. In the case of strictly English magazines the dominance of London up to 1939 is even more evident. By the 1930s some ‘little magazines’ were published in the university cities of Cambridge and Oxford, often linked to undergraduate coteries (such as Cambridge Left, Experiment, and Venture in Cambridge; Bolero and Farrago in Oxford) and from the 1940s onwards we find more instances of regional publications in cities such as Birmingham, Manchester, and Leeds. The centrality of London as a place of publication for poetry magazines is also confirmed in the ‘Geographical Index’ of British Poetry Magazines 1914–2000: A History and Bibliography of ‘Little Magazines’, compiled by David Miller and Richard Price, in which for the period 1914–39 only six magazines in total are listed for the major regional conurbations of Birmingham, Leeds, and Manchester.