Archives of the poetry magazine Phoenix and the Peterloo Poets series

Archive Collection

Scope and Content

This collection largely comprises letters and typescripts to Harry Chambers from contributors to Phoenix (issues 5, 8, 9, 10, 11/12 and 13), Phoenix Pamphlet Poets and the Peterloo Poets Series. Correspondents of Harry Chambers and contributors to Phoenix (1968-1975) include George Hartley, Anthony Thwaite, Gavin Ewart, Douglas Dunn, Seamus Heaney, George Mackay Brown, Richard Hoggart, Phoebe Hesketh, Michael Schmidt, Veronica Forrest. Typescripts of poems marked up for the printer of Phoenix include work by Michael Longley, John Mole, Peter Scupham, Norman Nicholson, Seamus Heaney, Anne Stevenson, Paul Muldoon, Tony Harrison and David Selzer. Typescripts of reviews and articles marked up for the printer with last minute annotations by the contributors include those of Frederick Grubb and Edna Longley for Phoenix 11/12 (the special Philip Larkin issue). Additional material comprises corrected proofs, galley proofs, page proofs, mock-ups of Phoenix covers, layout of Phoenix including typescripts of advertisements and editorial matter and typescripts which have been omitted from the final version. There are also various manuscript copies of poems including 'The Frogman' by Seamus Heaney and 'Love Poem' by Michael Longley. As well as editing the Phoenix magazine Harry Chambers produced the Phoenix Pamphlet Poets and was editor of the Peterloo Poets series for the publisher Eric Morten of Didsbury. Several pamphlets in the archive focus on single poets. There is correspondence between Harry Chambers and Tony Curtis, Peter Scupham, Stanley Cook, David Selzer, John Mole, with typescripts of all the poems considered for each issue (1972-1973). In addition there is correspondence and manuscript copies of poems sent to Harry Chambers for a selection of Phoenix pamphlet poets in holograph (the printed next to the written version). Additional material comprises biographical notes and photographs of contributors to Phoenix and the Phoenix Pamphlets, reviews of Phoenix Pamphlets (1-6) (1969-1970), correspondence with various regional Arts Councils including the Arts Council of Northern Ireland (1967-1975), correspondence with Harry Chambers relating to the award of a poetry fellowship at the Manchester Poetry Centre (1972-1973), the Steven Zivadin poetry prize (1975) and the performance of 'a celebration for Philip Larkin', a poetry reading at the Mermaid Theatre (1975), and 29 letters and postcards from Philip Larkin to Harry Chambers (1960-1976)

Administrative / Biographical History

Phoenix came into being in February 1959 during Harry Chambers' second term as a post-National Service student reading English at Liverpool University. Initially it was conceived as the platform for an idealistic left-wing staff-student group called Interaction, of which Chambers was a member. The first issue came out in February 1959 and cost 4d. The name, Phoenix, was supposed to suggest a 'mordent-ironical-toughly-idealistic comment on the supposed lack of literary-social-political life at the University'. In 1959 Harry Chambers was made sole editor in time for the second issue and in Phoenix 3 he published his own review of Philip Larkin's 'The Less Deceived'. By Phoenix 4 Chambers had decided to shift the focus of the magazine and with Phoenix 5 (Spring 1961) the drift from politics to poetry was complete (Schmidt & Lindop, British Poetry Since 1960).

After Phoenix 7 (Spring 1962) Chambers left Liverpool to find a teaching job in Yorkshire, handing over the editorship to David Selzer and Tony Chapman. Issues 9, 10 and 11 were produced under their editorship. In 1967 it was agreed that Harry Chambers should resume the editorship from Belfast, where he was lecturing at a non-denominational teacher-training college. Phoenix began again. The new Phoenix 1 was a 60 page Arts in Ulster issue. It appeared in March 1967 and carried several poems by Michael Longley, Seamus Heaney and Derek Mahon. In total Harry Chambers managed to produce eight more issues of Phoenix between Easter 1967 and Easter 1972 including 323 poems. The material held by Hull University Archives belongs to this second period of Phoenix's lifespan.

Late in 1967 Harry Chambers moved to Manchester. He was feeling increasingly uneasy about the big publishers' poetry lists. With this unease came the desire to start the Phoenix Pamphlet Poets, to focus on the work of young unknown poets of quality.

Glyn Hughes' Love On the Moor (November 1968) was the first Phoenix pamphlet. This edition of 1,000 sold out within a year. The second Phoenix pamphlet was Michael Longley's Secret Marriages. Chambers's resolve to publish young unknown poets strengthened in the face of the literary establishment's evident indifference to pamphlet publishing. A commentary in The Times Literary Supplement of 11 April 1968 suggested that pamphlets were a useful form of publication only for young poets who did not feel ready for a fullscale book.

In 1972, at the time of writing an article for an edited collection of essays on British Poetry since 1960, Chambers was engaged on another project. Working for the publisher Eric Morten of Didsbury he was editing a new series called the Peterloo Poets. His selections ran against the grain of the big publishers poetry lists. The Peterloo Poets list began with Peter Scupham's The Snowing Globe. The material held at Hull University Archives records the process of selection of thirty three out of a possible seventy typescript poems.

The 29 letters from Philip Larkin and Harry Chambers are mostly about articles which appear on Larkin in Phoenix and the special Philip Larkin issue Phoenix 11/12. Larkin appreciated Chambers early complimentary review of The Less Deceived and supported his efforts to publicise little known young poets

Conditions Governing Access

Access will be granted to any accredited reader

Custodial History

Purchased from Harry Chambers, 8 Cavendish Road, Heaton Mersey, Stockport in July 1976

Related Material

Papers of Douglas Dunn [U DDD]

Papers of Philip Larkin [U DPL]

Papers of Howard Sergeant [U DSG]

Archives of the poetry magazines 'Listen' [U DX/73], 'New Review' [U DP/168], 'Reality Studios' [U DRS] and 'Wave' [U DP158]

Literary Archive of Harry Chambers and Peterloo Poets [U DPP]

Brynmor Jones Library:

Set of Phoenix (missing no.2)

Bibliography

  • Schmidt, Michael & Lindop, Grevel, British Poetry Since 1960 (1972)
  • Hamilton, Ian, The Little Magazines: A Study of Six Editors (1976)