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This report is taken from PN Review 215, Volume 40 Number 3, January - February 2014.

A Brief History of Equipage Luke Roberts

Once, a fear pierced him,
In that he mistook
The shadow of his equipage
For blackbirds.

              - Wallace Stevens, 'Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird'

The opening lines of Rod Mengham's first book, Beds & Scrapings, revisit this scene: 'Have you once spread the alarm  a throng of birds climbing my left side'.1 The pamphlet, set in 10-point Gill Sans on good paper in an edition of 250, pink covers with white ink, was one of a series printed by Frank Whitbourn's The Causeway Press between 1977 and 1979. The other titles, including early work by Geoff Ward and John Wilkinson, are no less concerned with augury. Nervy and justifiably paranoid, these young poets address the hostile social order: Wilkinson contemplates 'the helter of digital  alarm on the left wrist', while Ward sees 'Unprecedented meteoric activity / despatches  from the border / the western powers'.2 The politics are implicit but clear: the left side set against emerging neoliberalism, with the spectres of Thatcher and Reagan visible on the horizon. The poems reference Tristan Tzara and X-Ray Spex, claim Stefan Themerson and Barry MacSweeney as comrades.

But like many independent presses, including Trigram and Grosseteste, The Causeway Press did not survive the 1980s. To give the pre-history of Equipage Press we have to look for the almost covert activities of Equofinality, run by Mengham and Wilkinson between Łódź, Poland - the scene of food riots in 1981, and like the rest of Poland, under martial law until 1983 - and ...

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