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Agenda records

Call Number: GEN MSS 87

Scope and Contents

The Agenda Records, 1914-2001, consist of materials from the production files of volume 7, number 3 (1969) through volume 37, number 4 (2000) of Agenda magazine, related financial and other records, and additional materials from editor William Cookson's files.

The collection is arranged into four series and three later groupings. Series I, Writings, (Boxes 1-31), is made up of works submitted for publication in Agenda or the "Agenda Editions." Series II, Production files, (Boxes 32-39), contains the galleys, page proofs, and other production material remaining from the work files for Volume 7:3 (1969) - Volume 22 (1984) once writings (Series I) and the correspondence (Series III) had been culled and arranged separately. The correspondence in Series III consists chiefly of exchanges between the two principal editors, William Cookson and Peter Dale, and various supporters, business associates and contributors to Agenda and "Agenda Editions." Series IV, Additional Papers, (Boxes 53-56), contains papers and writings of William Cookson, which do not strictly relate to Agenda, as well as other financial records, printed material and photographs. Groupings V-VII represent later additions to the collection acquired between 1994 and 2001 and are comprised of material similar in nature and scope to that found in Series I-IV, including writings, production files, correspondence, and other papers related to Agenda and "Agenda Editions."

Series I, Writings, consists of articles, poems and reviews in various stages of completion (holographs, typescripts, galleys and proofs), many bearing holograph corrections or annotations by William Cookson or the author. Works to be found in this series include Michael Alexander's reviews of books about Ezra Pound, as well as Alexander's poem, "Of Green Fields"; an article by Noel Stock entitled "Literature and Economics: A New Correlation"; miscellaneous notes by Dorothy Pound; translations of "Cantos LXII and LXIII," by Richard Reid; "The Hunt," a poem by David Jones and an essay by Arthur Giardelli on Jones's "Trystan ac Esyllt;" Donald Davie's poems, "England" and "Ornithology"; poetry by Ronald Duncan, including "Letter to Ezra"; classical poetry in translation by Humphrey Clucas; poems translated from Persian and Arabic by Omar Pound and a large number of Editorials written for Agenda by William Cookson. Material from the files of "Agenda Editions" includes an incomplete holograph of The Kensington Mass, by David Jones; The Curving Shore and Footsteps on Snow, by Anne Beresford; and Xenia and Motets, by Eugenio Montale.

Additional authors represented in the Writings series include Michael Alexander, Sabine Awiszus, John Bayley, William Bedford, Anne Beresford, Thomas Blackburn, Robert Bly, Keith Bosley, Basil Bunting, John Cayley, Cal Clothier, Humphrey Clucas, Michael Collier, William Cookson, Arthur Cooper, Peter Dale, Donald Davie, Peter Dent, Ronald Duncan, Reginald Gibbons, René Hague, Michael Hamburger, John Heath-Stubbs, Geoffrey Hill, Peter Jay, David Jones, Roland John, Peter Levi, Hugh MacDiarmid, William S. Milne, Penelope Palmer, John Peck, Ezra Pound, Michael Reck, C. H. Sisson, Charles Tomlinson, Peter Whigham and Louis Zukofsky.

Series II, Production Files, contains advertising copy, table of contents pages, notes, galleys and proofs of entire issues, arranged chronologically by issue number, including proofs of grouped responses to questionnaires on a variety of topics, which the editors of Agenda magazine frequently sent to individual poets and writers. Drafts of individual's responses to these questionnaires, however, were transferred to Series I, Writings, where they can be found filed under the name of the respondent.

Series III, Correspondence, consists primarily of letters exchanged between William Cookson and various supporters and business associates, as well as contributors to Agenda and the "Editions." Correspondence with Peter Dale, the associate editor, and Donald Davie, a guest editor, also is included. Correspondents discuss editorial aspects of writings contributed to the magazine, but also day-to-day business and news of a more personal nature.

Agenda's early years are well documented in this series. The files contain letters of rejection, letters asking for submissions from established poets, and requests for permissions to publish. There is correspondence in which marketing strategies are discussed, as well as letters soliciting subscriptions. Finally, correspondence between Cookson and the Arts Council of Great Britain chronicles Agenda's relationship with the Arts Council and traces the growth of its financial support. The correspondence of Associate Editor Peter Dale includes discussions of specific articles and poems as well as matters of general editorial policy.

Agenda was based upon suggestions made by Ezra Pound in 1958. Although Cookson continued to correspond with Pound throughout the magazine's early years, the collection contains only copies of Cookson's outgoing letters; there are no letters from Pound. (Letters from Dorothy Pound, which are present, include her own comments on Agenda.)

In his earliest letters to Pound, Cookson outlines his plans for Agenda; later letters reveal his (Cookson's) growing concern that Agenda was straying from Pound's philosophy, and expresses his view that editorial restructuring was necessary. In several letters Cookson solicits contributions from Pound to be published in Agenda; he also requests permission to publish Pound's work.

Two other early supporters and contributors to Agenda, Michael Alexander and Peter Russell, also are well represented in the correspondence files. In his letters, Alexander suggests names of individuals Cookson might wish to contact for help with Agenda. He discusses his own submissions and also comments on Pound and his work. Russell, a bookseller, publisher, poet, and professor, advertised in Agenda and contributed his own poetry. His letters offer comments on the magazine's format, criticism of poetry and articles, and advice on dealing with publishers and printers. Due to disagreements with Cookson over the acceptance of his own work, Russell eventually stopped contributing.

Over the years Cookson and Agenda established contacts with many other presses and publishers and these, too, are well documented in the correspondence files. The letters between Cookson and Michael Schmidt of Carcanet Press concern the inclusion of Agenda and "Agenda Editions" in Carcanet's catalogues as well as possible marketing strategies. In addition to requests for review copies, correspondence between Cookson and Peter du Sautoy of Faber and Faber makes reference to advertising, plans to publish a book by David Jones, and problems encountered in publishing the works of Ezra Pound. The Faber files also trace the publication history of the Cookson edition of The Selected Prose of Ezra Pound 1909-1965.

In Cookson's correspondence with James Laughlin of New Directions one again finds discussions of difficulties encountered in efforts to publish works by Ezra Pound. There are inquiries about available Cantos, discussions of copyrights to the books of prose, and remarks on difficulties that arose at the time of Pound's death. There is also correspondence dealing with permission to publish poems by William Carlos Williams in a special edition of Agenda, and letters discussing poems Laughlin himself submitted to Agenda.

In addition to tracking the role early supporters and business associates played in Agenda's development and eventual success, the correspondence series documents the on-going relationship between Agenda and the many poets whose works were published in the magazine or in the "Editions." Among the poets who figure most prominently in this series one finds Hugh MacDiarmid, Peter Levi, C. H. Sisson, Charles Tomlinson, Peter Whigham, and Louis Zukofsky. Letters from Basil Bunting reveal his thoughts on the classical and myth issues of Agenda and his opinions on the younger generation of poets. The Scottish poet Tom Scott suggests a Scottish number of Agenda, and comments on Ezra Pound and possible contributions to Agenda, such as the poem "Auld-farrant Gecks."

In several cases, individual poets achieved particular prominence and entire issues or volumes of the "Agenda Editions" were devoted to their work. Of these featured poets, David Jones is particularly well represented. In addition to the letters from Jones himself, he is also a frequent subject in the correspondence of others. The correspondence of René Hague, for example, concerns articles on Jones and discussions of Jones's The KensingtonMass and Hague's book Dai Greatcoat. There is also a manuscript of "A Note on Anamnesis". Other Jones scholars whose correspondence can be found in this series are David Blamires, Keith Bosley, Louis Bonnerot, Arthur Giardelli, Tony Stoneburner, and Colin Wilcockson.

Other noteworthy correspondents in this series include Sabine Awiszus, D. G. Bridson, Thomas Carter, Guy Davenport, Barbara Eastman, Eric Homberger, Jamila Ismail, Hugh Kenner, Eva Hesse, Harry Meacham, Desmond O'Grady, John Peck, Daniel Pearlman, Sister Mary Bernetta Quinn, and Noel Stock.

Series IV, Additional Papers, contains further materials pertaining to the financial and other administrative concerns of Agenda magazine, and some additional writings and personal papers of William Cookson.

The Business Papers subseries includes additional information on subscriptions, marketing and the Arts Council of Great Britain. There are also invoices and statements from The Poets and Painters Press detailing the costs of publishing Agenda from 1967-1977. A subseries of Printed Works includes a list of letters by David Jones compiled by Tony Stoneburner in 1977 and a copy of Four Pages, number 11, annotated by Henry Swabey. The Photographs subseries includes pictures of works by David Jones and Wyndham Lewis, and portraits of Basil Bunting, Robert Lowell and Hugh MacDiarmid.

The section devoted to William Cookson reflects his writing and editing activities outside of Agenda. Included are drafts of Cookson's A Guide to the Cantos of Ezra Pound; A Commentary on the Cantos of Ezra Pound and the introduction to Selected Prose 1909-1965.

Box 57 contains Oversize material which is arranged in series order, including correspondence and writings. Box 58, Restricted Fragile Papers, consists of originals for which preservation copies have been made.

V. August 1994 Acquisition contains production material for volume 21, number 2 (1983) to volume 30, number 3 (1992-1993) of Agenda, production material for "Agenda Editions," writings, including typescripts and proofs, and correspondence, including William Cookson's correspondence with Peter Dale, Kathleen Raine, and other poets and critics.

VI. November 2001 Acquisition contains production material for volume 21, number 1 (1983) to volume 37, number 1 (1999) of Agenda, writings, including typescripts and proofs, correspondence, electronic files, and other papers.

VII. October 2007 Acquisition contains production material for volume 37, numbers 2-4 (1999-2000), correspondence, and writings.


  • 1914 - 2001
  • Majority of material found within 1969 - 2001


Conditions Governing Access

The materials are open for research.

Box 58: Restricted Fragile Material. Reference surrogates have been substituted in the main files. For further information consult the appropriate curator.

Box 82: (computer disks): Restricted Fragile Material. Reference copies of electronic files are available. Consult Access Services for further information.

Conditions Governing Use

The Agenda Records is the physical property of the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale University. Literary rights, including copyright, belong to the authors or their legal heirs and assigns. For further information, consult the appropriate curator.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Purchased from Anthony Garnett on the Edwin J. Beinecke Fund, 1984-2007.


Organized into four series and three groupings: Series I. Writings, 1925-1984. Series II. Production Files, 1969-1984. Series III. Correspondence, 1958-1985. Series IV. Additional Papers, 1914-1983. V. August 1994 Acquisition, 1978-1994. VI. November 2001 Acquisition, 1972-2000. VII. October 2007 Acquisition, 1983-2001.


55.21 Linear Feet (83 boxes)

Language of Materials


Catalog Record

A record for this collection is available in Orbis, the Yale University Library catalog

Persistent URL


The Agenda Records consist of materials from the production files of Agenda magazine from volume 7, number 3 (1969) through volume 37, number 4 (2000), with related financial records, and additional materials from editor William Cookson's files. Writings include works submitted for publication in Agenda or the Agenda Editions and consist of articles, poems, and reviews in holograph, typescript, galley and proof form, many bearing annotations by editor or author. The production files contain advertising copy, notes, computer disks, and galleys and proofs of issues. The correspondence is between William Cookson and contributors, his associate editor Peter Dale, and other business associates. Additional papers include business papers, photographs, and a small number of printed works. Also included are papers concerning William Cookson's writing and editing activities outside of his work at Agenda.


The poetry journal Agenda was established in 1959 as a revival of an earlier publication, Four Pages. Agenda's founding editor was William C. Cookson; the associate editor was Edmund Gray. Gray was eventually replaced by Michael O'Higgins. In 1962 Agenda was reorganized and the magazine's editorial policy was reevaluated. At that time, Cookson appointed Peter Dale associate editor and chief poetry reviewer.

Agenda began publication out of New College, Oxford; throughout most of its history, however, it has been produced in London. At first issued monthly, by 1961 two numbers comprised one issue and eventually Agenda became a quarterly. Beginning in 1965 Agenda received regular grants from the Arts Council of Great Britain; this ongoing support has been a contributing factor in the success of the magazine.

Cookson initially based Agenda's editorial policy on the literary and economic ideas of Ezra Pound. Over time he came to believe that the magazine was straying from its original direction and, in 1962, Cookson decided that Agenda would "contain only the best poetry." The magazine would also include a regular review section, "criteria of which would be based upon Pound's early basic rules of criticism", and articles on both neglected poets and those with "inflated" reputations.

By 1965 the magazine had adopted a large format with cover lettering by David Jones. Entire issues were often devoted to the work of a single poet (David Jones, Wyndham Lewis, and Ezra Pound) or to a specific type of poetry (French poetry, American poetry, or verse drama). These issues sometimes employed guest editors, such as Donald Davie and Charles Tomlinson.

In 1971 Cookson and Peter Dale began the publication of "Agenda Editions," the purpose of which was to publish in book format the same type of poetry as appeared in the magazine. The first "Edition" issued was Peter Dale's translation of François Villon's The Legacy and Other Poems. Subsequent volumes include The Roman Quarry, by David Jones, Mortal Fire, by Peter Dale, Footsteps on Snow and The Curving Shore, both by Anne Beresford, and The Mystery of the Charity of Charles Peguy, by Geoffrey Hill.

Since William Cookson's death in 2003, Agenda has been published under the editorial guidance of Patricia McCarthy.

Processing Information

The bulk of the collection (Boxes 1-58) was processed in 1994, at which point material was arranged into four series: Writings, Production Files, Correspondence, and Additional Papers.

The three later additions to the collection received minimal processing including rehousing and listing at the time of acquisition. In 2011, these three additions (Boxes 59-83) received further processing, including arrangement of material into series within each addition, reflecting the series found in the previously processed part of the collection, and more detailed file-level description. At this time, the description of the three additions was added to the finding aid for the processed collection, whereas before it had comprised a separate "unprocessed" finding aid. Since this material has not been physically merged with the fully processed part of the collection (Series I-IV), each addition is described separately in the contents list below, following the descriptions and lists for each series.

The three later additions were formerly classed as Uncat MS Vault 713, Uncat MSS 199, and Uncat MSS 983.

This finding aid may be updated periodically to account for new acquisitions to the collection and/or revisions in arrangement and description.

Guide to the Agenda Records
by Tina Evans and Beinecke staff
February 1994
Description rules
Beinecke Manuscript Unit Archival Processing Manual
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English.

Part of the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library Repository

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