Sunday, 12 November 2006

 

Inital Proposal for Website Acting as Information Source for Contemporay Innovative British Poetry

I have been mulling over for while a specific proposal, which I would be very interested in public response to. It is to do with trying to extend the readership of contemporary innovative British poetry.

I take it as fundamental that this poetry (or poetries, probably more accurately) is an art which deserves as wide an audience as possible – like other forms of contemporary innovative art, many of which have a far more extensive exposure in the mainstream media and a wide following. At present, compared with other contemporary art forms, contemporary British innovative poetry has a quite restricted audience. There are some signs of an increase in this readership recently (increased attendance at readings, reviews in mainstream media etc). But it plainly has a small public presence, and one that often presents it as a minor and quirky activity (cut to footage of Jeremy Prynne on his bicycle).

I think it important therefore to try and extend the readership for this poetry. Given the state of the British booktrade, the Internet is the only place for this. This would also match with contemporary expectations about where to obtain information. I plan the following twofold strategy:

 (1) To set up a website to act as an entry point into contemporary (and recent) British innovative poetry, through its collection of information and links to further information etc. This would need to be established with the co-operation of this poetry's publishers, and of those brave souls who organise readings and other events. It would not be a website aimed at rivalling any existing sites, but simply as a clearly identifiable first port of call, to send off those interested to other sites.

It would provide links to these websites (whether containing poetry texts, details of publishing activity, or other information), notification of new and forthcoming publications, and of readings and other events. (At present the main method of publicity for such events tends to be direct emails and postings on newslists – preaching to the converted) A blog format with newsfeed would be the best way to present news events like readings etc and new publications. There should be a small selection of work (or possibly links to work online elsewhere?), as text, soundfile or whatever – but just as taster. I would also want some background information to give a context for British innovative poetry since the 1960s. The site will need a relatively self-explanatory and memorable name, to use as its URL. I wouldn't see it as selling books – but as referring the interested directly to the publishers.

The website should be set up and functioning before the next step is taken – so that there is sufficient on the site to keep its audience. I would aim to have done this by the end of this year.

(2) The primary audience for this site would not be those who already know about this writing (though I hope it would be found of some use), nor indeed any academic or institutionally educational community, as there are already excellent academic sites established. It would be that elusive specimen, the interested reader – someone saying, "What's going on here? I'd like to read some more and find out some more. How can I follow up that review in The Guardian? Are there any events I could encounter this stuff at?" Of course, no one may ever say that (and it's not very convincing dialogue). But if people are not given easier access to this writing, they will never be in a position to even reject it.

The corollary of this position is therefore, to make sure this site is actively marketed to a wide range of people, as wide as possible. Whereas the costs involved in a website are nominal, this will need money, which will entail Arts Council grant applications, possibly sponsorship etc. It will be very advantageous in this to work with existing institutions with a wide remit, with the Poetry Library, the Poetry Society and the British Library coming to mind at first.

The kinds of marketing activities that could be engaged in could be:
  • advertising in selected mainstream media (eg Guardian Review),

  • leaflets & enclosures with mailings from relevant organisations

  • or in poetry or, indeed, art or music etc, publications,

  • and also available at a range of sites, such as art and music spaces.

  • A launch event to give a focus for initial publicity and media coverage would be very useful.

  • Plus of course links to suitable websites etc (including educational sites).

I would hope to apply for funding as soon as the site exists, for the marketing event to occur early next summer.

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