A Deeper, Wider POOL: Reading Close Up Through the Archives of its Contributors

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This paper reconsiders the status of a canonical archive in the light thrown upon it by the belated scrutiny of subaltern collections. The Bryher archive in the Beinecke Library at Yale, together with close readings of the journal Close Up and selected writings by H.D., has been used to establish POOL Group - H.D. with Bryher and Kenneth Macpherson - as a narrowly focused cell of writers who turned their attention to avant-garde film, with Bryher and Macpherson editing the journal. What happens if we read this archive in a more nuanced way, one that accounts for its full diversity and acknowledges the reach and effect of Bryher’s influence beyond H.D. and Macpherson? What then happens if we read it in negotiation with the over-looked papers of other members of Bryher’s networks, and if we use both resources to read around known gaps in the archive? I show that in examining the neglected archive of prolific Close Up contributor Oswell Blakeston (held at the Harry Ransom Center) we can reconsider the constitution and focus of POOL Group, understanding it not as the exclusive activity of Bryher and H.D. and their male partner but as one that closely involves several other figures, including Blakeston, at that its activity is grounded in a negotiation with, rather than antipathy towards, mainstream film culture, which both extends the avant-garde towards the film industry and seeks to include film industry specialists, such as Blakeston, in vanguard literary practices. Secondly, I show that more sensitive readings of the Yale archive, in conjunction with Blakeston's, allows us to reconsider the role in POOL of Robert Herring: another prolific writer for Close Up and editor of its successor, Life and Letters To-Day, also financed by Bryher. Herring’s own archive was lost in 1975 in the house fire that killed him. Using Herring’s letters to Bryher - conserved but neglected because not the product of a canonical figure - in conjunction with Blakeston’s archive we may further understand the complexity and extended reach of POOL’s constitution and activity by reading around the destroyed materials.
Original languageEnglish
JournalPapers on Language and Literature
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2019

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