The Magic Door

by Chris Torrance

the effects
of this landscape & people on my urban consciousness
made me realise that the major theme was Transformation.
Transformation of matter, transformation of spirit
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Test Centre is proud to be publishing The Magic Door, the long-awaited collected edition of Chris Torrance’s life work.

Gathering eight books originally published between 1973 and 1996, the collection makes available and rejuvenates the work of this unjustly neglected poet, an important figure in the British Poetry Revival.

Admired by his contemporaries, including Iain Sinclair, J. H. Prynne, Allen Fisher and Alan Moore, the publication of this epic project will bring Torrance’s work the attention and recognition it deserves.

The Magic Door is a cycle, a long poem with recurring themes and images, although each volume has its own particular focus, ranging across alchemy, geology, history, myth and legend. Torrance’s unique poetic voice combines a Beatnik sensibility with a reverence for the radical sublime, influenced by the open field poetics of Charles Olson as well as by Ezra Pound and David Jones.

For nearly fifty years The Magic Door has transformed spontaneity with exact clarity – a vibrant entry through research in geology in history in hearsay – propelled into lyric and kept assured and frail in structural change – a sustained poetry of questions and unsure answers in complexity delicately pulled together into a confident diction.Allen Fisher
It is introduced by Acrospirical Meanderings In A Tongue Of The Time, a portal into the larger work, recording the poet’s ‘wonders & joys (& depressions)’ upon moving to Wales in 1970.

For nearly 50 years, Torrance’s territory has been the Upper Neath Valley. Having grown up just south of London and worked in the legal profession, he chose instead the borderland of industrial South Wales and a locally renowned beauty spot: ‘An early Christian hermit’s sacred stretch of river.’

Torrance’s dedication to his craft and to his natural surroundings form a unique record of the poet’s own consciousness and of his place, aware that ‘The old ways disappear from the map’. Through its own alchemy of form, research, imagination and intelligence, The Magic Door is an investigation into time and space, and the position of the individual in such wider concerns.

This collected edition, which has eluded at least one previous attempt, retains the books’ original illustrations and covers. It is introduced by Phil Maillard and has an afterword by the author, reflecting on his serial composition: ‘With this collected volume, I am only halfway through.’

As Maillard writes: ‘The Magic Door is an attempt at openness. To use a term Torrance borrowed from the Japanese, his writing has “sabi”, an appreciation of the authenticity in the imperfect and the unfinished.’

‘The globe turns.’

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Chris Torrance appearing in Chris Petit’s 1992 BBC film Weather. This is the first time this footage has been publicly available since the film’s original broadcast.

Launch event on Wednesday 4 October
7 pm, Swedenborg House

Please join us to celebrate the launch of The Magic Door on Wednesday 4 October at Swedenborg House.

This will be a very rare opportunity to hear Chris Torrance read, and is the first time he has travelled to London since he read at our event in Stoke Newington in 2015.

He will be joined by Iain Sinclair and Allen Fisher.

Entry is free and no tickets are required.

The time is long overdue to celebrate the integrity of Chris Torrance’s questing and night-haunted genius: the effortless precision of the farmer’s almanac, those rescued terms from alchemy and geology. And that lovely, reckless, free-flowing spill of self, as the transported poet exchanges youthful London atoms with his chosen Welsh ground. The revealed Magic Door sequence is a delirious epic of witness. ‘A sacred, illuminative warmth, compounding history’: as Torrance says of his morning-book-in-bed, The Anathemata of David Jones.Iain Sinclair
Chris Torrance’s Magic Door like William Carlos Williams’s Paterson is the product of a poet’s extended investment in a single place. Where Williams chose a city, Torrance chose a remote valley nestled between the Brecon Beacons and industrial South Wales. His explorations involve meteorology and mythology, archaeology and the arcane, but most of all a clarity of vision about what is in front of him and within him. It is this attention to the world – and the persistence he has shown across the decades – that make his work exemplary.Tim Dooley
Since I received a copy of ACROSPIRICAL MEANDERINGS IN A TONGUE OF THE TIME, Chris Torrance’s third book of poems, I have been in a state of intense excitement and interest. … I haven’t been able to leave the book alone. … The poems in this book shine with that “original gift of spreading the atmosphere of the ideal world over familiar forms and incidents”. It is not the poetry of adorning the familiar with cute arabesques, but absolute fidelity to it. The poet’s imagination communicates an air of marvel to the given. His communication with nature is a mutual one, “the hiding places of infinite power”. A gathering which makes my real world spiritual, and my spiritual world real.Barry McSweeney, writing in 1974


Technical Details

£30 | £125 + p&p.
240 x 163mm. 416pp.
Offset printed, signature sewn
Cover: French wrappers, white gloss foil front, back and spine
500 copies, of which 26 slipcased copies are signed and lettered by the author, with additional holograph material
Printed by Unicum, Netherlands
Designed by Traven T. Croves
ISBN: 978-0-9935693-4-0
Please note that all special edition copies are posted special delivery, with full insurance

Chris Torrance

Scots born, Chris Torrance was taken by his parents to suburban South London. His schooling was mediocre, the only high point a short story which was praised by the English teacher & given 10 out of 10. Torrance left school at 15 to begin a career in law, which lasted for 8 years. After that, he spent 5 years in various open-air labouring jobs. He helped to start a small mag called Origins/Diversions, which stimulated an interest in poetry, which he began writing in the mid-1960s. He soon became friendly with another young poet, Lee Harwood, whose influence was vitally important as Torrance concentrated on mainly contemporary U.S. poetry, in particular the open field poetry of Charles Olson & cohort, & of course the Beats & the San Francisco Renaissance. His first books were published by Ferry Press. In 1970 Torrance moved to Wales & there began writing the series that became The Magic Door. For 25 years Torrance tutored Adventures in Creative Writing for U.C. Cardiff. In the mid-1980s he linked up with musician-composer Chris Vine performing an eclectic brand of poetry & music.

This edition collects the following eight books: Acrospirical Meanderings In A Tongue Of The Time, The Magic Door Book OneCitrinas, The Diary of Palug’s CatThe Book of BrychanCylinder Fragments of the Twentieth CenturyThe Slim Book/Wet Pulp, and Southerly Vector.

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