I first met Kevin Brophy on Good Friday, 1972, when I ran away from home. He was running a coffee shop in Sydney Road, Coburg, and he allowed me to sleep on a couch there in a little cell of a room upstairs. He told me he was a writer and I said I was hoping to be one too. He was the first person to give me any real critique on my stream of consciousness prose and in essence he became my first editor and a lifelong friend.
He convinced me to attend readings with him and it was exciting to meet real writers; real because they were authors or they published in some of the little magazines or they read their work in public. We were writing stories and sending them off to the few litmags we knew – Meanjin, Overland, Southerly, Australian Short Stories. They were always rejected with a photocopied rejection slip. This was frustrating because it gave us no clue as to what we were doing wrong. Kevin started to say that we should edit our own litmag. I thought he was joking so I laughed heartily. I wasn’t even sure I knew what an editor was, so there was no way I could become one.
In the mid 1970’s I sent a story to Contempa, edited by Phillip Edmonds. I was sleeping on a couch in a house in Clifton Hill which Kevin was renting. I came back home after a walk around the streets looking for dropped coins and Kevin told me an editor had been there asking after me. It was Phillip Edmonds and I’m glad I wasn’t home to see him because I was sure he would have seen that I was a fake writer. Editors were scary people! I didn’t answer the door for months after that. In fact I moved into the chicken coop in the back yard to become more invisible. Kevin would bring meals to me out there and we would sit around discussing our favourite books and writers.
After The Skyhooks released their single ‘All My Friends are Getting Married’ Kevin married a girl and moved north to Queensland, I got married too and moved north to Coburg. When the single fell out of the hit parade both our marriages broke up. Kevin returned to Melbourne and rented a room in my house in North Coburg. We sat around the kitchen table crying for a few months and that’s when Kevin decided we were ready to become publishers of a small magazine. We spoke to a few editors of litmags and asked them how to do it. The answer was simple: all we had to do was let writers know we were going to publish a magazine, select the appropriate work and then take it to the printers. We weren’t told how to sell the magazines because that didn’t seem to be important.
We needed a title so Kevin suggested we write down our lists of favourite writers. We looked at the list and saw that we both loved writers who wrote anti-heroes, who were always failing at life, who struggled against the norms of society. They included Gogol, Dostoevsky, Beckett, Brautigan and Bukowski. Kevin wanted the title to reflect our tastes in literature so after many arguments we settled on Going Down Swinging.
We bought a post office box in Coburg and advertised the fact that we were a magazine. We made flyers which we took to writers festivals and poetry readings and submissions began to trickle in.
We were keen to find exciting young talent and we received work from two teenagers. We accepted one and rejected the other. The one we rejected was Tim Winton. It was a story set on April Fools Day. As editors we made many mistakes. Mistakes are great, that’s how we learnt.
The first issue came back from the printers on May 29th, 1980, and it had taken us 18 months to produce it. Kevin had found a photo for the cover which he thought would encapsulate what Going Down Swinging was all about. It was of Ned Kelly in a boxing stance standing with his left foot forward, in his underwear.
Myron Lysenko co-founded Going Down Swinging in 1980 with Kevin Brophy.
You can read more about the history of GDS here.