Bill McArthur studied drawing and painting at Edinburgh College of Art, then took a degree in Fine Art at Edinburgh University. At Edinburgh he became known as an illustrator and cartoonist in the student press, and editor of the student magazines Gambit and Cleft.

Following his involvement in Gambit, McArthur went on to edit Cleft magazine from 1963 to 1964. With an irreverent sweep he downplayed the very function of small magazine in the first issue’s editorial:

” The field of the small literary magazine is, generally speaking, one of sequestered obscurity. It emanates a wilful negation of commercial contact; an opting out of the monetary contract. Drabness of intention and presentation characterize the production. Little attempt is made at communication and they tend to reflect, to a crippling extent, the particular predilections of the current editor. This opting out of the commercial aspect of magazine production has a useful side-kick in that it ensures the brevity of their existence. As a medium of communication they are of doubtful value.”

While McArthur’s prophecy may have been fatefully correct in certain respects, as the magazine itself was only to survive two issues, the publication was certainly anything but drab. The first issue contained contributions from a range of international writers including Norman Mailer, Eugene Ionesco, William Burroughs, Andrei Voznesensky, Anselm Hollo, and Louis Zukofsky. The second issue once again contained work by Burroughs and Mailer, as well as the first two paragraphs from the Noigandres Group’s Pilot Plan for Concrete Poetry.

1. CLEFT, Vol. 1, No. 1, edited by Bill McArthur 
Edinburgh: Cleft, June 1963
First edition, saddle-stapled in printed and photo-illustrated wrappers, 7” x 9.5”, 36 pages.

  • Contents:
    1. Kenneth White – “The Real Climate”
      Norman Mailer – “Four Poems”
      Eugene Ionesco – “The Motor Show”
      William Burroughs – “Martin’s Folly”
      Giles Gordon – “The Milkman”
      Andrei Vosnesensky (trans by Edwin Morgan) – “Three Poems”
      Hugh MacDiarmid – “The Poet We Hope For”
      Astrid Gillis – “Same Rain”
      Anselm Hollo – “The Seventh Lady”
      Iain Inglis – “The Sook”
      Alex Neish – “Leaving for Buenos Aires”
      L. Zukofsky – “Poem 29 (1938), from Anew”

2. CLEFT, Vol. 1, No. 2, edited by Bill McArthur
Edinburgh: Cleft, May 1964
First edition, saddle-stapled in printed and photo-illustrated wrappers, 7” x 9.5”, 32 pages.

  • Contents:
    1. Henry Miller – “O Lake of Light”
      William Burroughs – “A Distant Hand Lifted”
      Norman Mailer – “Greasing the Radar”
      Norman Mailer – “A Study of Cancer”
      Robert Garioch – “At Robert Fergusson’s Grave”
      Mike McClure – “Ghost Tantra 50”
      Anselm Hollo – “Mucho Malo”
      Anselm Hollo – “The Bees”
      Keith Howell – “Washington Square”
      Gary Snyder – “The Old Dutch Woman”
      Edwin Morgan – “Breath of Corruption”
      Edwin Morgan – “Chinese Cat”
      Edwin Morgan – “Siesta of a Hungarian Snake”
      Ian Hamilton Finlay – “The Practice”
      Jonathan Williams – “The Wreck on the A222…”
      Jonathan Williams – “Besides Buttercups”
      Andrei Vosnesensky (trans. by Edwin Morgan) – “Earth”
      Kenneth White – “Ten Thousand Yellow Buds”
      Alex Neish – “The Loneliness of it All”

Online Resources:

Reality Studio – Cleft 

References Consulted:

Clements, Marshall. A Catalog Of Works By Michael Mcclure, 1956-1965
New York: The Phoenix Book Shop, 1965

Maynard, Joe and Barry Miles. William S. Burroughs: A Bibliography, 1953-73
Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 1978