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This article is taken from PN Review 39, Volume 11 Number 1, July - August 1984.

Fourteen Letters (to David Wright) C.H. Sisson
The first number of the quarterly magazine X- so named after 'the unknown quantity' - appeared at the end of 1959. Apart from providing a platform for such then-neglected poets as Patrick Kavanagh, George Barker, Stevie Smith and Hugh MacDiarmid, its editors hoped - though not too confidently - to uncover some of the 'unknown quantities' that they knew might be finding it difficult to get into print, either because their ideas and attitudes were not among those currently received, or their verse and prose not cut to the fashion of the day. In this respect the magazine did pretty well, considering its short life: for the seventh, and last, number of X came out in 1962. Two novelists - John McGahern and Aidan Higgins - and several now well-known painters, including Frank Auerbach, Michael Andrews, and Craigie Aitchison, were first featured in its pages. These last were the responsibility of the late Patrick Swift, himself a painter of equal talent. But the best justification of the magazine, and of its editors' ambitions, was the discovery, or rather the recognition, of two or three authentic but unpublished - and at that time apparently unpublishable - poets. The first to appear was Brian Higgins, the wild man from Hull, who turned up in the summer of 1960 at the exiguous Covent Garden attic office of X with a knapsack containing all his worldly goods, which included a borrowed Anglo-Saxon typewriter, and who died five years later, shortly before his posthumous book of ...


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