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This report is taken from PN Review 99, Volume 21 Number 1, September - October 1994.

Outposts' Half-Century Gordon Symes

Nothing about the modest 8-pager (no covers) which appeared in February 1944 suggested that it would outlast other little magazines of the wartime poetry boom. Still less that it would one day be celebrating its fiftieth anniversary. Its main contributors (Nicholas Moore, Maurice Lindsay and Henry Treece among them) were standard fare for the period. Even the title Outposts was slightly misleading if you thought this implied something avant-garde and experimental, ahead of the main literary thrust. What its founder Howard Sergeant meant was something simpler, even truistic: 'all genuine poets can be regarded as the outposts of civilisation'. And no more by way of manifesto than an intention 'to publish the best available poetry being written in English at the present time'.

There is perhaps a clue here to the magazine's durability in its editor's disregard for vogueish, watchwords and stances. Outposts was never to become either fashionable or unfashionable. There never was an Outposts movement, and probably none of its poets ever thought of themselves as Outposts poets. By 1950 these would include such postwar arrivals as Kingsley Amis, Dannie Abse, Elizabeth Jennings, James Kirkup and Vernon Scannell - some of them making their debut in print and helping incidentally to build Sergeant's reputation as an impresario of new talent. Causley, Redgrove, D.M. Thomas, Thwaite, Heaney, Crossley Holland, Douglas Dunn, Medbh McGuckian and Peter Reading were others to be given a first or early outing.

If new poets remained the principal concern, there ...


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