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