Archive of the Now and the poetry archive

Before I get on to the rest of the readings on the Archive site, I thought I’d take this opportunity to think about things archival. My interest in the archive is twofold, I recognise the creative potential for interrogating the status and position of that which is archived and I’m also attracted to the promise of completeness and authenticity that the archived dangles before me.

The pundits and experts tell us that the next ‘phase’ of the web will be about data and about being able to access data in ways that the individual user specifies. The other trend that applies to us creative types is what the web is doing to authenticity so there will be this increasing tension between poetry archives and the authentic.

To return to the Archive of the Now, what follows will be known from now on as the ‘Reitha Pattison Test’ and it will be referred to throughout the academy as definitive. Attentive readers will know that the last piece referred to my (personal, subjective, prejudiced, cantankerous etc) preference for having the text in front of me when listening to poetry. I also made the point that this was especially important with complex material. This particular entirely objective test requires you (yes, you) to go to the relevant page, play ‘Ah’ and listen to it as carefully as you can. Then play ‘Seven’ whilst reading the text that’s displayed towards the bottom of the page. I think this makes my point- you now have a much clearer idea of what the second poem might be about because you are are of line endings, capitalised text etc and you can go over the text again just as you can the recording.

I think I’ve said before, in the context of ‘Some Fables’ that Reitha produces some of the most intelligent poetry that we’ve got, a poetry that works firmly within the tradition/corpus/discourse/canon but in an incredibly contemporary way that also manages to be incredibly light and graceful. All of the poems here may be translations but they are also new and stunningly original pieces of work and anybody who is in the business of reviving sprezzatura deserves universal recognition and gratitude. I also need to confess that I haven’t yet read her essay on ‘The Corn Burned by Sirius’ (which I think was in Glossator’s Prynne issue) but it will be read this week as I now notice that the first heading is ‘Boethius’ who is referenced in ‘Kazoo Dreamboats’ which is one of my current objects of struggle.

We now need to turn to the J H Prynne page, I’m pleased to report that the reading of ‘Refuse Collection’ is clear and more or less matches the poem in my head both in terms of pace and the level of anger. The introduction is remarkable for Prynne’s quasi-embrace of reader reception and his (more predictably) negative view of poets talking about their own work. I found these elements so striking that I will be addressing them at length in the near future. With regard to the reading, I’m prepared to accept that having the text to hand is not essential but (becuase of the fast pace) some of the words can be misheard. The text is available in Quid 13 which Barque are selling for £1.00 (although I can’t find how to place this in the basket) – the link to just a copy of the poem is now dead. I can forward a text copy to those who haven’t got a copy.

I’ve said in the past that ‘Refuse Collection’ is a superb piece of polemic and stands apart from the post-Brass material in terms of its unambiguous clarity and the palpable rage.

The Luke Roberts page is a reasonably representative selection of his very impressive work. The recordings are clear and of good quality but I would ask you to consider whether the or not the reading of the first two stanzas of ‘Terraform Lecture Notes’ is made more reachable by having the text at the bottom of the page.

The other really odd thing is the fact that the recording of ‘Colossal Boredom Swan Song’ is incomplete, the last three words (imitation of flight) are cut off/absent/not there so that the poem ends with ‘tiresome’ which doesn’t make very much sense especially as the ‘im’ of ‘imitation’ is recorded/audible.

Even though he chose not to take part, in my head Roberts is one of the brightest stars of what I think of as the Better than Language poets. Listening to these four poems has made me realise that I failed to do full justice to ‘False Flags’ in January and that I need to try again to give it the readerly attention that it deserves.

With regard to Keston Sutherland, I think I need to make a kind of retraction. At some time is the reasonably distant past I made the observation that Keston reads too quickly and that the force/gist of what is said thereby loses some impact. These recordings of some of the earlier work show a bit more balance but I think I’m now of the view that Keston’s occasionally ‘superabundant’ approach actually requires this kind of supercharged reading bacause one of the things that the superabundant is ‘about’ is the sheer impossibility of holding on to information/language/stuff that seems to bombard us to the point of submersion. I hadn’t thought of Sutherland as a sound artist but I will draw your attention to whatever is going on with ‘Deletes Sex’ and ‘Mincemeat Seesaw Fit B’. I am taking an increasing interest in the word/sound mode and these are both quite startling primarily because I’m only familiar with the ‘straight’ text versions and these do fundamentally change the way that I think about the poems.

It is a pity that nothing has been added since 2005 because he’s produced some of the most important material in the last seven years. I know that there are recordings elsewhere on the web but it would be good/appropriate to have these in one place. Listening to these has returned me to the texts with a fresh pair of eyes and I am grateful for the opportunity to pay more attention to the things that came before ‘Hot White Andy’.

In the very near future I’m going to reflect on those names that were unfamiliar and those that I should have paid more attention to, especially Peter Riley, John Hall and Holly Pester.

2 responses to “Archive of the Now and the poetry archive

  1. I’d be very grateful to receive a copy of the text of ‘Refuse collection’ – I’d forgotten about the ‘Archive of the now’ – so a useful reminder! With thanks & best wishes,


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