My name is Peter Philpott, and I am editor of this site. Great Works carries on the name and traditions of a publishing venture between 1973 and 1979. Great Works published seven isues of a magazine, and a small number of books, aiming at surprise, innovation and delight in writing, especially poetry, hovering on that unstable cusp between modernism and postmodernism.
greatworks.org.uk carries on this idea. It publishes on the Web material sent in to and chosen by its editor, to give a deliberately heterogeneous assemblage, varying between intiguingly innovative practices and effective and direct modernist annotations on our world. Think of Great Works as a constantly changing sample of what some people are writing, filtered through the attention and tastes of its editor, with an ever increasing bank of material appended relevant to the writing it has published.
Since early 2006, it has been produced as discrete bimonthly issues (well, actually that's the plan, but life has often intervened, and twice a year is more accurate), with a bunch of fresh texts, plus those from the previous issue and a few more, emphasised on the site's homepage, but with all previous material to date available in the Archive. There is also a separate site, www.modernpoetry.org.uk, laden with information about the sort of poetry (in its British context), Great Works publishes.
Our slogans are:
Not language, but speech acts— words stolen from a performance by Jow Lindsay at Cafe Oto last December
There are nine and sixty ways of constructing tribal lays,— good old Kipling
Everything flows!— archaic philosophy as the postmodern
This is not time for people who say: this, this, and only this. We say: this, and this, and that too.— James Fenton, who ought to have kept to this
Mestizaja es grandeza— mixedness is greatness — quoted by Robert Hughes
This site does not believe in any single Tradition or defined set of Craft Skills. There is no single shibboleth used as a test. To quote Donny O'Rourke, By temperament, I'm an innkeeper rather than a gatekeeper.
The language used to describe Great Works is very deliberate: Great Works is a site for innovative writing: modernist, postmodernist, archaic. It proclaims the need to let a thousand flowers bloom, and rejects any single definition of what writing is. Work is invited or submitted: poetry, prose, or any other operations of language considered that encounter or question contemporary experience and language. I want to include material that comes from specific writers, but I also want to include work sent in by people I have had no connections with. The policy adopted is very pragmatic: does it interest or please me? Do I want to read this? And what then interests or pleases me? — look at what's on the site! All writing sent in will be looked at on an equal basis. But note that this is not an open site — the editor's decision is final.
There is material on this site specifically presented in a hypertext form. I am less interested in exploring the possibilities of hypertext than in just presenting writing that works. It is relevant, though, I believe, that short pieces, or work which is divisible into short sections, fit the pattern of a computer screen better than material that has to be scrolled down. That's not, however, ruling anything out, and the sheer continuity of a long text on a single webpage is also interesting.
I am primarily interested in original writing — but will consider reviews, writings about, etc. Opinions expressed will not necessarily be those of the Great Works Organisation. There will, though, have to be some level of agreement.
The material published on the site will be presented simply, laid out as you can see. I am not a graphic designer, so I don't want to make an amateurish attempt and ruin your writing. I may well play around with the presentation of any of my own work I put on this site — I will have only myself to blame. If you have plans or specific notions of layout beyond the chaste pattern I am aiming at, let me know.
See also the page on Why I Publish on the Internet.
Layout is a nightmare for poetry on the WorldWide Web, as soon as lines are broken and start inset from the left hand margin. This cannot be accurately represented unless the font used is typewriter style (which is plain ugly), or is otherwise lowest common denominator. This site uses mainly the two Microsoft webfonts, Georgia and Verdana. I think they work well on screen displays, and are now very widely available. The Web works, if you're not aware of this, by using the fonts installed on the computer you are using. You may find it useful therefore to download these fonts from Microsoft, if, as is highly unlikely, they are not installed already.
The poems are laid out so that lines break or begin only where the poets wish. But this will match only precisely with a given monitor size, and given settings. If the lines aren't breaking properly, try adjusting the font size on your browser. Some pages are in fixed fonts (mainly 12 pt), but I have shifted to relative sizing, so layout should be alterable. Occasionally very exotic layouts are done by graphics — no way round that sometimes.
Indeed, I am in the process of switching over entirely to writing the site in Transitional XHTML — a gradual process that should make the site easier to access from a range of devices, eg mobiles, as well as simpler for me to write in future. This is a slow process, and I don't see the bulk of the existing Archive converted to the new coding for many a long year. There will therefore be a range of coding styles used — some of which I realise now plainly don't work as I had hoped. One day . . .
Copyright Issue The British Library is archiving this site. If any contributors have problems over their work being a part of this, and their work being retained for perpetuity on the Library servers – please email me, and it will not be used by them.
I have retained the material above for reasons of record. The entire site is now in quite reasonable Transitional XHTML, with I think no more examples of layout through tables. Pages should cope with various browsers, monitor sizes, etc, and be generally accessible via reading devices, and could even be viewable on mobile phones and PDAs, though complex layouts will translate badly to small screens.
I am not sure I want to continue with the very open policy I've had for the material I've published. I stand by it all, every single poem; but I think I want to do something different, and that British innovative poetry needs something different. Any information on future actvities is probably best accessed via the You Must Write As If Your Life Depended On It blog for now.