Monday, 7 March 2011

What Is To Be Done with

I have been assured by a number of people how very useful they find Great Works and in their own exploration of Contemporary British Innovative Poetry, or in helping others explore the terrain. Well, good. That’s what I want. Now, I have lain Great Works into a quite quiet state for the present (however long that may be); but I would like if possible to further develop (MP for short), and make it more useful. And I feel this will need to be a collective effort.

MP is a compendious resource for anyone wanting to understand Contemporary British Innovative Poetry (just poetry after this – you know what I mean and what I don’t). The site concentrates on online resources as these are universally accessible, and it is itself a website (duh!) It isn’t an academic resource (though if it is useful, excellent), so I underplay the academic contexts for much poetry. I have moreover some reservations about the recent increasing importance for supporting poetry of the academic world (on a level of principles and strategy, not the individuals concerned). I aim always at a model user of the site who isn’t in close contact with academic institutions and resources. That strikes me as important. It may well become more important as the current regime’s HE policy increasingly cuts in and the English Higher education system is lopped down to fit their nightmare visions.

Another important element in the site that I want to ensure is its broad church interpretation of poetry. I’m happy with any and all offspring (legitimate or not, adopted, or even just abducted) of the British Poetry Revival and its antecedent 1950s modernists. And their offspring etc etc. We are all sealed of the one tribe, so far as I am concerned. Anything between highly informed and cute as lace pants takes on the post-avant and a Writing Degree Zero basal modernism I’ll accept. Anything to avoid narrow and negative definitions that exclude what may have some promise, power or interest, and could possibly contribute to as varied as possible gene-pool for poetry. (Hybrid vigour beats specialised adaptation every time in my book of biological metaphors.)

Now to the nub. The site gets bigger and bigger. The volume of worthwhile poetry is ever-increasing at an even faster rate. (Hurray!) My time and energy are, though, unfortunately being taken up by other things in ways I hadn’t fully prepared for, apart from I’m just feeling fed up after ten years heavily devoted to doing websites. I think, more importantly, that if MP is to carry on effectively, it needs to be a more collective, less personal enterprise. Not just my take and presentation, but something better.

What, in my opinion, the site needs is a wider range of input for continuingly useful links and lists, a wider and more informed input on books etc, and indeed consideration of what other sorts of material could be included on MP, eg should there be more details on individual poets? more lists of publications?? I have I am well aware a total blind spot on online video material, and am not very interested in audio for that matter – pure text or pure performance are what engage me, not mediated versions – and am well aware that this limits what I draw attention to or can usefully comment on, in a way that excludes many internet users. The site would also benefit from a considered use of social networking and mobile phone technologies – would these be of any use in reaching its audience and how? And should there, could there, be reviews? Lists of books published? And is it all too London-centred? Is MP keeping up with what is really happening? Is it actually compelling and attractive enough (sufficiently “sticky” as a site, as it used to be said) for its target audience? I am undoubtedly way too old to do this as well, and there may well be too much now purely historical material. So, how then to include you, dear reader?

I propose to set up a Collective, for both users and those willing contribute material and ideas or help in production. I see this existing on several layers of contact and commitment:
  • Actual face-to-face contact – meeting every two months, say, (initially, inevitably, in London). Turn up and contribute. We’ll vary the times and locales; but let’s start with my beloved Café Oto in Dalston (April 3 – details at end). Anywhere else with space, good ambience and wifi would be equally suitable, but let’s start here.
  • The inevitable Facebook Group. It is a nice open format, so let’s use it. Already set up as Collective.
  • But not everyone loves the time- & privacy-consuming monster. There is also now a blog, as you may well have noticed. If you want to post rather than comment, email me on or Facebook, and I’ll formalise the permission. Comment is open, and I will put up if requested email or postal contributions, and will endeavour to coordinate material with that on the Facebook Group page. Please use either of these for suggestions, contributions, comments etc
Let’s see then how this all pans out. At the very least, feedback will be obtained. I hope people willing and able to contribute, in whatever way, will be able to do so, and roles will be defined as they develop. I suspect it’ll be up to me to conduct the orchestra for a while – but ideally a spontaneous and confident collective improvisation can replace that metaphor by one more appropriate to our poetry.

Two technical points to end with. I have altered the copyright on most of the pages on the site (excepting the autobiographical material) to a Creative Commons License, meaning, to quote the Creative Common website ( – altered punctuation etc), “You are free to Share – to copy, distribute and transmit the work – and to Remix –to adapt the work – under the following conditions: Attribution – You must attribute to Peter Philpott (with link) –; Noncommercial – You may not use this work for commercial purposes –; Share Alike – If you alter, transform, or build upon this work, you may distribute the resulting work only under the same or similar license to this one.” So, really, feel free to go ahead and reuse and remake anything from it.

Second point is to note that MP has been produced by me coded in not totally kosher Transitional XHTML, with the aid of Dreamweaver. This is technology I am reasonably confident with. It is a rather dated and unprofessional approach nowadays. Suggestions and assistance to make things easier to add and update, and also to give less of an amateur hobbyist visual style would be also greatly appreciated. Personally, I find a lot of cute and cool design gets in the way of legibility and clarity. On the other hand MP’s style may repulse or bore its would-be audience. MP’s availability for a range of platforms also needs to be considered, as it looks as though smartphones, e-readers and tablet computers are all now entering the electronic data ecosystem, and may well need to be catered for if the site is not to become obsolete. Informed input on these issues would be appreciated.

Details of Open Planning Meeting at Café Oto, 3.00-5.30ish (no music there that night so might be able to stay a little later), Sunday April 3. (Yes, other meetings will need to be in the evening, in the week, I know.) Address is 18-22 Ashwin St, Dalston, London E8 3DL, tucked in behind at Dalston Junction (where the Balls Pond Road/Dalston Lane crosses the Kingsland Road, immediately on the North-East quadrant). Transport really is easy: regular buses from Liverpool St Station (242 & 149), the West End, Waterloo (76), London Bridge (149). Two Overland stations a step away: Dalston Junction interconnecting with Underground at Whitechapel and Highbury & Islington, Dalston Kingsland at Stratford and Highbury & Islington. Bicycle racks. Good food & drink. Nice place. But apart from enjoying the unrivalled amenities, just to get a sense of what anyone that enthused to attend feels about the site and what is to be done. I really am serious about problems carrying on with sole responsibility for something that ought to be not personal, but collective.

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