|Morris Cox’s poetry and prose rarely found commercial publication. Several poems, two stories and an essay were printed in WORLD REVIEW between 1951 and 1953, when the magazine ceased to exist. The first selection of his work in book form, as well as the most substantial, was THE WHIRLIGIG AND OTHER POEMS,|
|published by Routledge and Kegan Paul in 1954, when Cox was 51 years of age. It sank like a stone. Routledge declined to act on other manuscripts Cox submitted, despite the support they received from Colin Franklin, then one of the directors. Finding himself middle aged, and with an unsuccessful first book, Cox realized he was unlikely to find another publisher that would accept further work. It was at this time that he founded the Gogmagog Private Press with the goal to see his poetry into print.|
The activities of Gogmagog of necessity took much of his time and energy, and with his course set, it seems he did not try to submit work to literary magazines or publishers. Instead, as he produced more of his unique private press books, he began to find an audience - if not for the texts - for their presentation.
Of those who did read the texts contained in the Gogmagog books, Alan Tucker was the one who took most interest in his literary work, and shared his reactions with Cox as each new volume emerged. It was with Tucker, Brian Morse, and T.R. Glover that Cox contributed to the little magazine FORMAT, which ran for nine issues between January 1966 and April 1971. Tucker acted as editor and distributed the magazine from his bookshop in Stroud, Gloucestershire, which was - and still is - run with his wife Joan.
While FORMAT qualifies as a ‘little magazine’, the preface by Tucker in the initial issue states:
This is less a magazine than a group anthology. Four poets have come together much as four compatriots might strike up acquaintance when in a foreign country. Our ages are disparate, our views in some cases opposed, and our styles have little in common. But uniformity was never a poetic virtue. We hope the wide range in form, style and subject of these poems will provoke a corresponding width of interest and comment, and for this reason particularly ask you to read all four sections of the magazine.With only four contributors, Cox was assured a quarter of the total space, and therefore each of the nine issues contains a healthy dose of his work from the late 1960s and early 1970s (in addition to four of the covers, which he designed and printed). While the poems in FORMAT constitute ‘published’ versions of the poems, Cox always considered the treatment poems were given in the Gogmagog books to be definitive. His goal was to head towards a ‘collected poems’, which would be lithographed from his private press versions; the glory that such a volume would have been we can only guess. Instead, Cox eventually made COMPLETE POEMS 1921-1971, in an edition of only five copies, in his Gogmagog Photocopy Library series. The poems were photocopied from THE WHIRLIGIG, from clean typescripts, and from the Gogmagog books themselves. Always fastidious about recording the evolution of his work, Cox produced a companion volume, DRAFTS, also in an edition of five. These two volumes were reproduced for posterity, to await a time when the poems could have a less limited distribution.
When, in 1991, the PLA issued GOGMAGOG: MORRIS COX AND THE GOGMAGOG PRESS, Alan Tucker edited a short selection of poems, including ‘The Curtain: an Allegory of Inspiration’ the longer poem ‘War in a Cock’s Egg’, as well as several poems reproduced from the type-set Gogmagog versions. Printed in an edition of 1650 copies, GOGMAGOG remains the most accesible source of Cox’s poems to date.
Texts for this FlashPøint selection are from several main sources. ‘The Four Elements’ have been reformatted from proof sheets printed for a Gogmagog Press edition in 1970 (it was abandoned at the time, and was later issued in the Gogmagog Photocopy LIbrary in an edition of 10). A generous selection has been taken from THE WHIRLIGIG (1954), which has been long out of print, and is now a very scarce volume, tho two longer sections - ‘The Football Match’ and ‘The Whirligig’ - have not been included. The texts in THE WHIRLIGIG were reproduced directly from the 1954 book for COMPLETE POEMS 1921-1971, and thus may be considered definitive versions.
Many of the other poems have been taken from magazines: a few pieces from WORLD REVIEW (1951-3), one from SOLSTICE 9 (1969), and a number from FORMAT (1966-71). As the preface to FORMAT 1 suggests, the magazine acted as an outlet for ‘works in progress’. Many of the poems first printed there found their way into Gogmagog volumes, and eventually into COMPLETE POEMS or DRAFTS. In many cases, the poems from FORMAT are not definitive versions, as Cox would often revise poems - sometimes changing punctuation and capitalization, other times adding or deleting lines. As a copy of the COMPLETE POEMS was not available for consultation due to its great scarcity, the poems included here from FORMAT, as stated previously, must be read as published, but not always definitive versions.
While it seems unnecessary to repeat poems that are included in the GOGMAGOG (1991) selection (as anyone taking an interest in Cox after viewing the material in FlashPøint is advised to find a copy of that still accessible volume), there are a few instances where the duplication of texts is required or desirable, such as when a poem is part of a sequence, or when other examples of a certain mode are not presently available.
In addition to the reformatted texts above, the Gogmagog Press books which have been reproduced as ‘virtual facsimiles’ - given their own separate section - should be read as well. Perhaps they, more than any of the newly-typed versions, give the best indication of the complete vision of Morris Cox.
I would like to express a great debt to Alan Tucker, who generously supplied nearly all the texts. His intimate knowledge of Morris Cox and his literary works has proved invaluable. Thanks also to Colin Franklin for providing a copy of SOLSTICE 9, which yielded a piece not found elsewhere.
remains with the Trustees of the Morris Cox Estate.