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Archive of the Now

An online collection of poetry including recordings of over 130 poets performing their own work, capturing voices not represented elsewhere.

Archive of the Now
  • School/Institute/Department: School of English and Drama
  • Subjects: Poetry
  • Audience: General Public

The Archive of the Now is one of the UK’s most important resources for contemporary poetry. Founded in 2005, the Archive has commissioned and produced recordings by over 200 UK-based poets performing their own work. It also includes an extensive collection of printed materials which is accessible to research users. The Archive is distinctive for supporting the experimental poetic tradition, capturing voices and practices which are not represented elsewhere.

With funding from the Centre for Public Engagement, the Archive recorded sixty new poets, hosted a poet-in-residence, offered workshops for school students on poetry in the digital age as well as public readings and performances. Poets responded very positively to the request to contribute to the Archive and the experience of being recorded, and in some cases produced new or collaborative works specifically for the site.  

This grant also allowed the archive to develop a welcoming and intriguing site which new users are comfortable navigating, with a depth and variety of content which will reward repeated visits.  The Archive of the Now team have also gathered printed and manuscript materials, including small-press publications, leaflets, handmade artists’ books, and ephemera from public events, which will be housed in the QM library and made accessible to students and researchers.

During her one-year residency, Sophie Mayer provided ten monthly responses to the Archive, including essays, playlists, and tutorials, and led projects to develop access to the site and develop a social media presence for the site.  She also project-managed an investigation into best-practice metadata taxonomies for digital audio archives, funded by the Innovation Fund.  The culmination of her residency was a day-long set of poetry and performance events at the RichMix cultural centre, including Kiddie Kamarade (an event for under-8s and their parents and carers, co-produced with Maintenant Camarade) and a silent poetry disco with open mic for undergraduate student poets and performances by Hannah Silva and Andra Simmons.

The Archive hosted public readings at QM, including a reading and an artist’s talk by the distinguished Canadian poet Lisa Robertson, and now provides a digital home for the UnAmerican Activities series (which takes place in New York and the Lockkeeper’s Cottage at QM).  The Archive also sponsored a unique ‘Phonopoetry’ project, for which poets were recorded onto wax cylinders and these recordings along with live performances were played at the Modernist Studies Association conference in Brighton.  We also curated four one-hour performance and discussion sessions on the ‘Exponential Horn’, an installation by Aleskander Kolkowski at the Science Museum, which were broadcast live on Resonance FM.

The Archive is continuing to grow with the addition of new and historic recordings, and the website is regularly updated.

This project was funded by a Centre for Public Engagement Large Award. All Large Award projects were asked to produce a poster, giving more details about the project and sharing learning gained from it. You can see the poster for Archive of the Now here [PDF]

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