An Open Letter to the Company of Nine – CHE’s poetry Group

The background to this letter (published below) is as follows. CHE’s successful poetry group, called The Company Of Nine, is producing a volume of its members’ poetry. 30 contributors submitted 104 poems from which 33 were selected, including two by Laurence Collinson. Laurence later received a note from the editor of the volume asking whether Laurence wished to publish under a pseudonym. “So far I have assumed that as this is to be an avowedly CHE publication the poets will wish to have their identities concealed,” wrote the editor. Expressing surprise at this, Laurence received a second letter that included this comment: “Although the booklet is to be a CHE publication, there can be no guarantee that it will be seen only by CHE eyes, which means that for some to be published in it under their own names would not be brave but downright stupid. Second, some of our contributors may wish to avoid publicity through doubts about the worth of their work.”

30 Andrewes House,
London EC2Y 8AX

31 January, 1973.

Dear …,

I was more shocked by your second letter than your first. You give ‘two points to remember’ as reasons that contributors to the CHE poetry anthology might wish to publish under a pseudonym.

(1) The booklet might be seen by other than CHE eyes, and consequently, for some to be published in it under their own names ‘would not be brave, but downright stupid’.

(2) Some contributors may not wish publicity because of ‘doubts about the worth of their work’.

Neither of these reasons seem to me to be rational or valid. Firstly, contributors who wish to remain ‘in the closet’ should not have submitted material to a booklet that is ostensibly part of a CAMPAIGN. (Remember: CHE means Campaign for Homosexual Equality?) There are plenty of ‘straight’ poetry journals wherein one may be published without having to suffer the ordeal of guilt by association; let these courageous poets submit their creations there! Really, what respect must these people have for the Campaign, for themselves, and for their own homosexuality that they, must engage in such self-oppression!

Secondly, writers who doubt the ‘worth of their work’ don’t usually submit that work for publication!

I have decided to protest against this typical CHE furtiveness by (a) withdrawing my poems from this anthology – will you please see that this is done; and (b) publishing this as an open letter in an appropriate journal.

Laurence Collinson

Cupid’s Coming

Grandma Press has just announced that enough subscriptions have now been obtained for the firm to send its comic, sexy novel, CUPID’S CRESCENT by Laurence Collinson, poet, playwright and contributor to many gay publications, including Gay News, Lunch and Quorum, to the printers. The delay that has occurred since the book was first advertised has been due partly to the fact that some potential subscribers were slow in making up their minds, and partly to the fact that certain personal problems intervened that made it difficult to act as quickly as had been hoped. Such difficulties have now been happily overcome, and people who have subscribed can be assured that the time they will now have to wait for their copies will be no longer than it takes the printers and publishers to set up, lay-out, design, staple and post off the book.

A few autographed and numbered copies are still available at £2.00 each; while there are still plenty of the ordinary £1.00 copies for those who want them.

Orders for copies of this funny, semi-gay paperback novel should be sent, along with the correct amount of money (postage is included) to Laurence Collinson, 30 Andrews House, Barbican, London EC2Y 8 AX.

Is Gay Lib Still Liberated?

19720914-04One of my regular occupations in the homphile movement seems to be to try to explain what the Gay Liberation Front is doing, and why, to hostile members of the Campaign for Homosexual Equality who hate to think their ‘respectable’ image is being tarnished by radical gays. On the occasion of the GLF All-London Come Together (also known as a Think-in and a Whither GLF?) at the Holborn Assembly Hall on Saturday, September 9, however, I couldn’t help but compare this meeting with one held in the same place by London CHE a few weeks back — a meeting which started on time, got through an enormous amount of work, and gave considerable (and well-deserved) satisfaction to most of those who participated.

In contrast, the GLF meeting had – for GLF – a poor attendance: about 120 brothers and a few sisters for all of London; by 1 pm, when the meeting was scheduled to start, the hall was still almost empty, and only in fact began soon after 3 pm because one brother got fed-up at the time being wasted and shouted to everyone to sit down.

As for deeds accomplished, there were the usual arguments among groups and individuals, many of whom displayed an arrogant, smug, holier-than-thou attitude that accorded ill with the ideology of love that they were expounding. The arguments were those that have been repeated ad nauseum in GLF circles for the past year or so. Only two practical proposals emerged from all the bluster and were apparently accepted: one was that all-London meetings should be held once every month, and the other was that a ginger group be formed in order to attempt to restore the spirit that made GLF such a force to be reckoned with up to a few months ago.

I don’t for one moment suggest that GLF adopt any of the often-stifling forms and rituals of the CHE bureaucratic structure, but some means must be found to make the term liberation meaningful again.

Much talk has gone on lately about self-awareness being the most important aspect of gay consciousness. Okay. But self-awareness is only a part of gay life, not its totality. Self-awareness, consciousness-raising, call it what you will, is frequently used as an excuse for sitting around rapping and taking little or no action about anything. To be truly liberated means to care about your brothers and sisters, to want to protect them against the oppressions of the straight world; the obvious corollary is that they shouldn’t have to be protected against you. Yet ‘liberated’ gays are still oppressing their own brothers and sisters and this is an oppression that takes many forms. A heavy form is being vicious, either verbally or physically, towards a brother or sister; another form is simply being late to a meeting and thereby wasting the time of those who are waiting for you. If you want to do your own thing, as many GLF people declare they do, then you can’t belong to a group, because every individual doing his own thing is going to tear that group apart. But if you are really committed to GLF, then some personal sacrifice is involved, because commitment means a love of those people who are working with you and a respect for their ideas, even when they differ from your own.

Saga of a Sexy Novel

Back in the late Sixties I finished a novel which I called ‘Cupid’s Crescent’ – Not my first novel but the first I actually thought worth persisting in sending round to publishers. It wasn’t a long novel, just a fraction shorter than the average, but it was certainly sexy and contained a few of those words that, though in common use, weren’t at that time supposed to appear in print.

05-197208xx-6During the following years the manuscript passed through the hands of several agents and practically every fiction publisher in and around London. Reactions ranged from that of a well-known publisher, since dead (though not, I understand, because of reading my book), who got very uptight and slammed the agent for sending him such a disgusting piece of work. The regular response was: Sorry, but not suitable for our list. But about half a dozen publishers were extremely enthusiastic, and although they wouldn’t take the novel, their comments gave me the heart to keep trying.

They put in their rejection letters such nicely quotable phrases as ‘entertaining and very well written’, ‘congratulations on a really original story’, ‘it’s one of those rare, really funny books .. . contains scenes of great comic merit’, and ‘a dirty book but deliciously funny’.

These same publishers, however, tempered their praise, not by picking out faults but by indicating that they were afraid of the consequences of producing my book. ‘It is the dirtiest, kinkiest, sickest, and most unpublishable one that has come my way’, said one, adding that he didn’t want to end up in prison. Another said that ‘we’d be inundated by strangled cries from the outraged reading public’. And another commented: ‘If you clean it up, you’re going to ruin the effect; if you don’t clean it up, you’re going to have to wait until the dirty market catches up with you …’

I doubt if the ‘dirty’ market is ever going to catch up with me. Why? Because in England there is the hypocritical belief that detailed sexual writing, unless dealt with in an indirect or in an ‘educational’ way, is pornographic – I use that last word only because it’s handy in the context; I don’t believe that anything is porno or obscene, and if I have to use such words I’d rather apply them to such matters as war and violence and unnecessary suffering. And if a writer not only writes about sex, but also does so in a comic manner (which I hope is the case with ‘Cupid’s Crescent’), then his case is hopeless. Sex isn’t supposed to be funny!

I guess that most English publishers are scared of sex. If a publisher likes a book, as several obviously liked mine, then why suppress it? – because suppression is the ultimate effect of their rejections. It’s an identical kind of censorship to that which is supposed to apply to political novels in the so-called Iron Curtain countries. Of course, if you cut the book off at source (that is, in manuscript form), then you can kid yourself that you’re not a censor at all, merely a publisher rejecting unsuitable material, and you can go on believing you’re living in a lovely free democracy.

Ah., says the Gay News reader, but what about such books as ‘Candy’ and ‘Portnoy’s Complaint’ and those by Genet and Burroughs, and Henry Miller – they’re all available here. Well, potential customers, don’t forget that these were published with considerable success in other countries first; they were acclaimed by critics, endorsed by best-seller lists, and enjoyed by millions of readers in their own countries. Any attempt to suppress them in England would make the censors, whether at publishing company level or at Government level, look bloody silly. And don’t forget either that the publicity such books have already attracted makes them sure best-sellers here. Profitability is, for most publishers, whatever they spout about honour and integrity, the supreme factor; and whether we like it or not, in this kind of society it’s difficult to blame them.

Anyway, I finally decided to publish ‘Cupid’s Crescent’ myself: by subscription, as this is the only way I could think of to raise enough bread. For potential subscribers, let me say that I think you’ll get your money’s worth. The novel recounts the adventures of a young man who like certain unnamed people connected with pornography commissions and festivals of light, believes that Sex is a very Nasty Thing indeed, and goes to extreme lengths, murder even, to achieve his goal of ridding the world of people who actually enjoy fucking. There’s practically no ‘straight’ sex in the book, but lots of other kinds, especially gay sex – and it’s all dealt with in a tongue-in-cheek, humorous (I hope) fashion.

The novel is going to be published as a paperback, clearly printed but not a luxurious production. It’s expensive for what it is: £2.00 per copy for the first 350, which will be signed and numbered by me; and the rest, without my autograph, at £1.00 each Postage included. It’s possible they’ll become collectors’ items, but this I don’t guarantee. What I do guarantee is that, if the project doesn’t get off the ground, you’ll get your money back. Okay?

(Editorial note: Laurie is an active member of both GLF and CHE. has had many short stories published, stage plays produced. TV and radio plays on the RRC and other networks, and is the author of two collections of poetry. Cheques should be made out to Laurie or to ‘Grandma Press’ and sent to 30 Andrewes House, Barbican, London, EC2Y 8AX)