The Literary Magazine Collection

Literary magazines hold a special place in literary studies. These magazines, sometimes also called “little magazines” are typically devoted to publishing new and innovative writing—literary magazines are often the place where poets and writers are published first, before they gain widespread success. The Celtic Collection houses a wide variety of Irish literary magazines, most of which are devoted to Irish poetry.

The literary magazine collection includes publications from across the twentieth century, which means that a wide variety of poetry and magazine formats are represented. Some of the earliest examples in the collection come from The Shanachie: An Irish Miscellany Illustrated, a publication devoted to highlight and popularize Irish culture, likely for a primarily English audience. The magazine was published in the first decade of the twentieth century and featured prominent Irish writers like George Bernard Shaw and W. B. Yates alongside other prominent writers and artists of the time.

But the collection isn’t limited strictly to miscellanies or bound magazines—they have broadsheets as well, some of which are quite rare. One especially interesting inclusion is To-Morrow, a literary broadsheet spearheaded by Francis Stuart and Cecil Salkeld (who ran Gayfield press with his mother, Blanaid Salkeld). The pair was only able to publish two broadsheets before they were shut down by the censors in 1924—the same year they started. They aimed to fill a gap, for they felt that “mainstream Irish literature was narrow and that no outlets were available for young writers to publish innovative or experimental work.” The Celtic Collections have both published editions of To-Morrow.

Poetry Ireland is another magazine with a strong representation in the Celtic Collections. The magazine, which has been in print off and on since 1948, has published the works of hundreds of Irish poets. This particular journal has a few St. Thomas connections—several past winners of the O’Shaughnessy poetry award have had turns editing the magazine, including Dennis O'Driscoll and Pat Boran.

The collection also includes journals and magazines edited by prominent writers from Ireland, including several edited by Seamus Heaney (Soundings 2 & 3). Others are less prestige heavy and more ephemeral, such as Voice Free Broadsheet, published in the mid-80s and devoted to providing “a forum for unknown writers.” When paging through the many magazines from across the century, names begin to become familiar—the Irish poetry scene, while robust, is compact enough to get a sense for by spending some time with this rich, diverse collection.  

-Rachel Busse