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This article is taken from PN Review 256, Volume 47 Number 2, November - December 2020.

Grosseteste in Two Chapters
1–Shedding light on common objects
Ian Brinton
The first words of Robert Grosseteste’s treatise De Luce (On Light) seem to offer a very reasonable opening into a brief look at one of the most innovative small poetry presses of the 1960s and 70s:

The first corporeal form which some call corporeity is in my opinion light. For light of its very nature diffuses itself in every direction in such a way that a point of light will produce instantaneously a sphere of light of any size whatsoever, unless some opaque object stands in the way.

The opacity which appears to have brought a close to one of the most imaginative and forward-looking presses of the second half of the twentieth century was both financial and murderous: the costs of producing books of such a high standard and, in 1978, the murder in Leeds of one of its co-founders, John Riley.

A graduate from Pembroke College Cambridge, John Riley had been a school contemporary of Gordon Jackson and in his pamphlet account of the setting up of the Grosseteste Press (Asgill Press, 2016) the latter recalls how in their teens they had been drawn together by a mutual interest in poetry: by the reading of it, thinking about it and the sharing of ideas concerning their aspirations to write it. As Jackson was to put it this shared interest led to him being introduced to the Black Mountain poets of the 1950s and to the work of Ian Hamilton Finlay’s Wild Hawthorn Press. Jackson made a journey to Finlay’s home at ...


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