Ganglia & grOnk

Ganglia (magazine, 1964-1967; press, 1964-c.1988) & grOnk (1967-c.1988)

Covers of seven issues of GangliaGanglia was founded by poets bpNichol and Dave Aylward. The idea for the magazine came to them while they were both working at the University of Toronto library in 1964, and a year later they decided to start Ganglia and publish it themselves under Ganglia Press. Ganglia was a magazine open to various kinds of new poetry including concrete; It was to be a site of communication, much like a ganglion is in physiology. 

The main goal of Ganglia was to publish poetry and prose works that Aylward and/or Nichol felt deserved more exposure within Canada and abroad. Nichol's goal for the magazine was to make young British Columbia writers that he knew--bill bissett, David Phillips, Martina, Clinton, Red Lane, and Judy Copithorne--better known in Ontario. Ganglia alternated between publishing issues devoted to one poet's work and anthology issues. Some of the poetry collections featured in the single-poet issues were The 1962 Poems of R.S. (Red) Lane and bill bissett's We Sleep Inside Each Other All.

Ganglia was published for a solid two years, and then the editors' interest in the magazine seemed to wane due to an increase in the number of literary magazines at the time. According to bpNichol, "[he and Aylward] really dug doing GANGLIA for the first two years but then gradually [their] interest waned there seemed so many mags publishing more or less straight poems & really as far as publishing went [they] were less & less interested." [1] This was mostly due to their growing dissenterest in publishing an eclectic poetry magazine for paid subscribers. As a result, it is difficult to know when the fifth and seventh issues of Ganglia were "published"--sometime in 1966 and 1967, receiving, in Nichol's words, "truly pitiful distribution." [2] The seventh issues was its last issue, and Ganglia ceased publishing in 1967. Ganglia Press, however, continued by publishing a new magazine: grOnk.

Nichol, in particular, enjoyed publishing the small bissett and Lane collections, and printing the occasional pamphlet to give away to friends through Ganglia and Ganglia Press. This led him to found a second magazine which would be distributed to whomever the editors thought would be interested. With the financial help of Aylward, and the co-editing of Rob Hindley-Smith, and the further assistance of David W. Harris (otherwise known as David UU), bpNichol launched in January 1967 the irregular pamphlet series grOnk, which featured concrete and related poetries. This was a direct influence of the Vancouver poetry newsletter/magazine, TISH, where a poetry magazine did not have to have subscribers to be published, it could be sent out if there was enough writing that the editors thought would be of interest to people.

Covers of 5 issues of grOnkThe issues in grOnk were a part of an international exchange. Nichol saw the magazine as a way of publishing news, informing not only writers in Canada but also writers in Europe and South America. Nichol maintained an active mailing list that contained between 180-250 names that represented an international community of avant-garde artists and writers. grOnk had a strong base in Canadian writing, but also included international work as well.

The first issue published in January 1967 featured work by French spatialiste poets j.f. bory and Pierre Garnier, as well as d.a. levy, bill bissett, bpNichol, David W. Harris, D.R. Wagner, and Victor Coleman; the second included works by British concrete poets Kenelm Cox, John Furnival, and Cavan McCarthy, as well as Nichol, Harris, and David Phillips. grOnk went under wraps for almost a year in between 1967 and 1968, and it wasn't until September of 1968 that the magazine started up again. The third and fourth series of grOnk were primarily edited by David W. Harris, bill bissett, and Steve McCaffery. By 1972 the frequency in which grOnk was published started to decline due to other projects that the editors were working on.

One of Canada's longest running early little magazines, grOnk ran for well over 100 issues in a wide variety of formats, first mimeographed and later photocopied. grOnk went through a number of phases during its liefspan, and in its first phase there were a total of eight series each with eight issues in what is considered the "old" series. This sixty four issue run varied in format; there issues with mimeographed covers, printed covers, printed inserts, different sizes, single-sheet issues, issues devoted to the work of an individual, books as part of a series, envelopes filled with various materials, mergings or co-publishings with other periodicals, small stapled pamphlets, and collections of printed cards. grOnk was a free-form and ever-changing magazine, constantly in flux, constantly in the process of pioneering new territory. The physical labour involved and the thoughtfulness and beauty of each literary object remain a hallmark of the small press movement.

grOnk continued with an intermediate series, which was an attempt at running a subscription series begun in 1972 (total of twenty three published issues and one issue remaining unpublished); a flash series, a quick, low-press run four issue series from 1982-1983; the zap series, which produced four issues; and the final series begun in 1982, which was another low-press run of one hundred copies per issue. The final series of grOnk ran from 1982 and ended in 1988 with the untimely death of bpNichol. Ganglia Press also ceased publishing new material in 1988; however jwcurry printed some reissues of selected works.

Both Ganglia and grOnk expressed the poetic and publishing interests of their editors. Publishing for Nichol became an act of both communication and an expression of friendship, "The results were fantastic. We were able to send news from Canada to other writers we admired." [3] Ganglia Press' various chapbooks and pamphlets were not considered to be products, rather they were seen as gifts to friends and an interested public. 

Ganglia, grOnk, and blewointment (a magazine and press founded by bill bissett in British Columbia) assisted in the proliferation of concrete poetry, both sound and visual, and its associated writing into wider contexts within Canada and abroad. The work of these magazines brought a radical new aesthetic to Canadian literary landscape, and blurred the lines between art, life, and language.

[1] bpNichol. Ganglia Press Index. grOnk 8.7 (1972), 4.

[2] ibid.

[3] Geoff Hancock, "The Form of the Thing: An Interview with bpNichol on Ganglia and grOnk." Rampike, 12.1 (Fall 2001), 33.