End of the Lines;Arts in Scotland

20th February 1998 at 00:00
These are difficult times for the literary magazine in Scotland. Chapman and Cencrastus can scarcely afford to pay contributors. The innovative Object Permanence is stilled. Now the elegant quarterly Lines Review is being laid to rest after 45 years which marked a period of literary riches, particularly in the poetry that it inspired and sustained.

First entitled Lines, it appeared in Edinburgh during the 1952 festival "in honour of Hugh MacDiarmid's 60th birthday", with work from five poets of whom Hamish Henderson is the sole survivor.

In the following year editor Alan Riddell produced Lines 2 under the imprint of M Macdonald, the small press of Callum Macdonald who has appointed the editors ever since. Only Gairm (founded 1951) surpasses such consistency. The current editor is the poet Tessa Ransford, who is justly proud of the December 1991 issue which, for the first time in the UK, brought together new writing from the reunited Germany. Lines Review has reflected changing attitudes in cultural Scotland. In 1957, Tom Scott introduced a "Scots-orientated" policy, with essays by Robert Garrioch and Hugh MacDiarmid and a long poem by himself. In 1971, a whole issue was given over to Alan Jackson's The Knitted Claymore: An Essay on Culture and Nationalism. The controversy stirred up by this literary polemic still fuses debate to debacle.

In 45 years, Lines Review has published all the major poets. The archives are available in the National Library and the Poetry Library. Back copies are on sale in the latter. Subscribers will miss its elegant presence on their shelves. When A D Mackie became editor, he wrote: "Three persons may call themselves 'we': the monarch, the editor and the man with fleas." Now we, and the man with fleas, must scratch elsewhere.

Hayden Murphy

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