Who is Eddie Linden? Not merely a question but the title of a book by Sebastian Barker that came out in 1979, at a time when it’s subject was best known as the editor-publisher of the literary magazine Aquarius as well as for, well, being known. Stories abound about Linden in much the same way the sea abounds with fish. Barker’s book barely touches on the wilder legends, preferring, rightly, to focus on his extraordinary life story. ‘Extraordinary’ is a rote word in the lexicon of critical flummery, but here it is justified. From a Dickensian childhood in the West of Scotland to a friend to all the poets worth mentioning today – it has been an incredible journey.
The full story of Linden’s life, along with readings of a selection of his poems, can be heard in a recent SPL podcast – see below. Our interviewer travelled to Maida Vale, where he interviewed Linden in his flat. Well-preserved copies of ancient Aquariuses (Aquarii?) were stacked around the bedsitter, as were dog-eared photocopies of reviews. Linden agreed to be interviewed in his pyjamas, as is his poet’s prerogative. We began by talking about his tough childhood. He was born illegitimate in Northern Ireland in 1935, then sent to relatives in Scotland. Until his adolescence, he was passed from grudging family member to foster parent to orphanage. Perhaps this lack of rootedness explains why, once he entered the working world, he was rarely able to hold down a job for long. By the time of his early 20s, he left Glasgow for bohemian London and never looked back.
Complicating the picture, Linden was both Catholic and gay (and at a time when homosexuality could send you to jail). He buried his anguish in a series of causes, from Communism to nuclear disarmament, but he never quite found a place in the world until he began to attend poetry readings in the 1950s. Inspired, he began Aquarius in 1969, a magazine that ran for near 40 years, and whose tribute issue to its editor reads like a who’s who of post-war poetry.
Eddie talks about his trials and triumphs in the SPL podcast, which can be heard below, while his Selected Poems, Who Is Eddie Linden ?, and a selection of back issues of Aquarius can be borrowed from the SPL.