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 Britain.

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:

Tim Atkins

Andrea Brady

Ceri Buck

Stuart Calton

Vahni Capildeo

Adrian Clarke

Kelvin Corcoran

Emily Critchley

Ian Davidson

Andrew Duncan

Ken Edwards

Kai Fierle-Hedrick

Allen Fisher

Roy Fisher

Harry Gilonis

Chris Goode

Bill Griffiths

Alan Halsey

Robert Hampson

Michael Haslam

Ian Hunt

Elizabeth James

Tom Jones

Christine Kennedy

David Kennedy

Michael Kindellan

Tony Lopez

Peter Manson

Tim Morris

Geraldine Monk

Peter Larkin

Redell Olsen

Maggie O'Sullivan

Out to Lunch

Ian Patterson

Neil Pattison

Reitha Pattison

Simon Perril

Peter Robinson

John Seed

Simon Smith

Keston Sutherland

Lawrence Upton

John Wilkinson

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 Chester County that had a copy of his collected poems, The Long and the Short of It, but I’ve done so & thus I’m diving 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

The Academy of American Poets

Archive of the Then

The Electronic Poetry Center


Modern American Poetry



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.


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