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Disappearing Curtains Edited by Paul Buck

Disappearing Curtains Edited by Paul Buck

In that indispensable volume about British Poetry Magazines 1914-2000 edited by David Miller and Richard Price the entry for Chapter D, 129, ‘Curtains’ , gives clear background details concerning Paul Buck’s innovative and exciting publication which was to cast its brightness over the 1970s scene: ‘Most issues are unnumbered and have alternative titles based on the Curtains theme’.

The most recent copy which was presented to me by the editor, Paul Buck, at the Free Verse Poetry Fair a few weeks ago is titled ‘Disappearing Curtains’ and it has a sense of summing up. The editorial account of what it means to start up a new literary magazine is essential reading for anyone wishing to set out on the worthwhile venture:

‘A magazine serves more than one purpose. If I am to be the editor it needs to be a personal document, an exploration of my interests. As I am a writer then being an editor revolves around the notion of editing as part of the research for my writing. However, I do see it as a wider project, that is, the magazine as a communal…a community work.’

The BPM account stressed how the series was ‘especially strong in translation of contemporary French literature’ and a steady glance through French Curtains (1973), Curtains, le prochain step (1976) and bal:le:d Curtains (1978) most certainly confirms this as one reads Rosemarie Waldrop’s version of Jabès, Glendale George’s Giroux or Paul Auster’s Georges Bataille accompanied by striking illustrations from Jeff Nuttall. However, that brief description falls far short of giving true recognition to the astonishing range and expertise reflected in this series of magazines.
Between 1971 and 1978 Paul Buck edited at least eleven issues of the magazine and published work by Roy Fisher, Larry Eigner, Anthony Barnett, Kris Hemensley, Allen Fisher, Barry MacSweeney, David Chaloner, Michael Haslam, Mark Hyatt, Peter Riley, John Riley, Jeremy Hilton, John Hall, Cid Corman, Eric Mottram, John Freeman, Veronica Forrest-Thomson, Gael Turnbull… and the list goes on. One of the delights for me was coming across the work of Paul Selby, the founder of Sweet Dawn Publishing, about whom I have written in Infinite Riches, a History of Dulwich College Poets since the 1950s. In Safety Curtain (1972) there are eighteen pages of Selby’s work before we read both Carlyle Reedy and Larry Eigner. The last contribution in that issue of Curtains is a review by Kris Hemensley of Joanne Kyger’s 1970 Black Sparrow Press collection Places To Go:

‘These poems are what one might have expected to come from Denise Levertov in the light of her statements of intent of a decade & more ago – and whilst this is no criticism whatsoever of Levertov’s prosaic mood at present – it is exceedingly fortunate in these generally sparse & even trite times that Joanne Kyger can offer the rich & the fantastic.’

As if listening carefully to his reviewer of years ago Paul Buck’s final curtain contains work by Francesca Lisette and Holly Pester as well as his own ‘Notes In & Out of the Disappearing Mist’.

Ian Brinton 11th October 2016

Paul Buck’s To End It All (Test Centre, 2015)

Paul Buck’s To End It All (Test Centre, 2015)

To End It All is a prose work by writer, poet and artist Paul Buck. The text is composed of the final sentences of a varied selection of books by authors whose names begin with the same letter of the alphabet.

It began as an investigation into the endings of books, and the openings these endings offered for new beginnings. The book concludes with three extended texts, as examples of where each ending could begin to lead, as well as an implied invitation for the reader to respond to the provocation.
Edward Said argued, in his study Beginnings (1975), that a ‘beginning,’ is its own intention and method, and dependent upon an interaction with modern thought and criticism. Distinguishing between ‘origin,’ which is divine, mythical, and privileged, and ‘beginning,’ which is secular and humanly produced, Said traced the implications and understandings of the concept of beginning through history. A beginning is a first step in the intentional production of meaning and the production of difference from pre-existing traditions. It authorizes subsequent texts, both in terms of enablement and limitations. Buck’s work has an inherent argument that endings can be seen in the much the same light. Clearly a good ending should take the reader elsewhere, from back to book’s beginning to further contemplation of what the book has or has not achieved, to new possibilities of thought and writing. Here’s a sample from To End It All:

That dim hope sustains us.
That.
The choice may have been a limited one sometimes, but what an immense privilege to be able to choose!
The copper-dark night sky went glassy over the city crowned with signs and starting alight with windows, the wet square like a lake at the foot of the station ramp.
The direction seemed the right one, too.
The main thing is always the same: sovereignty is NOTHING.
The nurse left then, and Kristie heard her outside, locking the door.
The Other is what allows me not to repeat myself for ever.
Here the endings vacillate between ending and beginning and seem caught in a space somewhere adjacent to them both.

I recently saw Amy Cutler, at the Litmus 2 launch, read a poem based on the index of first lines from R S Thomas’s Later Poems. She saw the potential of forming a narrative around a love affair with memory and landscape in the background from the index. As she read along figures and a development arc emerged suggesting that the process had found latent meanings. Using an index based upon the alphabet creates its own structure. The ‘I’ is clearly a pivotal and activating point and that is the same in Paul Buck’s text. Critically one has a sense of the range of books and material Buck has used for his endings / beginnings. There is the pleasure in guessing some of the authors and books that he selected from, and beyond that an emergence of a psychic flow in the selections and possibilities opened up. Buck’s first paragraph based on the line ‘I give in to temptation’ shows that endings can indeed lead to new beginnings.

There was something against my body, there was an opening, a blaze, there was the heart. Always the crunch of gussets in the discarded harmonies. Many malcontents could be seen lounging. Through failure she snatched the gift from his broken fascination. Waiting for a constant, the chaotic condition, not the most exciting. Not as exciting as his own catastrophe, his own elimination.

David Caddy 6th March 2015

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