Tuesday, October 24, 2006
Archive of the Now is, on day one, the most significant new site for poetry I’ve seen in well over a year. It is a perfect complement to the Archive of the Then, Andrew Motion’s slick gathering of so much that is kitsch, the Bathos of Britain into which he & his colleagues have dropped a few token gems to dress the dross, with its megalomaniacal “world's premier online collection” claim on its home page. Mostly it’s a shill for hawking some old CDs, containing only two-thirds the number of poets available for free already, and in much greater depth, at PENNsound.. In unmistakable contrast with Motion’s slickness, Archive of the Now simply seems intent on becoming
an online and print repository of recordings, printed texts and manuscripts, focusing on innovative contemporary poetry being written or performed in
What a breath of fresh air! And what resources already in place. The Archive already has in place some materials on the following 44 poets:
For someone who has been complaining, as have I, that I have some difficulty hearing the work of many British authors, this site is a patent & blunt challenge to me to put up or shut up. If I want (need) to listen, it’s right here. In fact, I shall. Roy Fisher’s poems here have already sent me out to find the one lone bookshop in
Is the site perfect? Hardly, but this appears to be mostly because it’s just getting under way. It has, as of this week, 44 poets in contrast with the Archive of the Then’s 133 & PENNsound’s 196.. So the obvious immediate need at Archive of the Now is for more authors. Some of the obvious enough omissions at present include Thomas A. Clark, Lee Harwood, Drew Milne, Tom Pickard, J.H. Prynne, Tom Raworth – Raworth, in fact, can be found on Motion’s site, which is selling a CD of him reading.
Like the Electronic Poetry Center, the British Electronic Poetry Center, Ubuweb, the Academy of American Poets, Modern American Poetry, PENNsound, & even Motion’s slickness, Archive of the Now is part of the new encyclopedic impulse on the web itself, poetry-specific offshoots of the same impulses that lie behind Wikipedia and Google. Further, zines & reading series themselves are beginning to understand the value of same, for example Jacket, How2 & MiPoesias. We stand at the cusp of a period in which an enormous number of resources for the enjoyment & study of poetry over the past century, especially the last half century, are about to explode exponentially. Indeed, we are rapidly approaching the moment when some smart person is going to start pulling together an index of such resources, thus noting, for example, sites concerning Allen Ginsberg (often with sound files) on
Not to mention Ginsberg’s own home site. Just multiply that level of detail for each of the 10,000-plus English language poets now publishing – not to mention those who, like Ginsberg, have come & gone before – and you begin to get a sense of simply the scale of what is out there already. And what should be out there (and will be, soon enough).
Thus, to Andrea Brady, who appears to have done the bulk of the work in getting Archive of the Now up & running, we can only say welcome & huzzah. May the project live long & prosper.