Home Just What Is British Innovative Poetry?

OK. It's a clumsy name. I'd rather call it just Poetry, the artform using language as its medium — with a lot of other uninteresting stuff only pretending to be poetry wiped out of existence. But that's maybe a little too hardcore. It is British because it embraces heterogeneity, hybridity, inclusion and reaching outwards, and is written throughout these islands. Sorry, St George's flag wavers, but these days "English" does not conjure up such important values. It's Innovative because that's it's crucial quality — to remake itself, to remake poetry, to remake our culture. Most poetry floating around this island (particularly this biggest bit of it I'm writing from) is either essentially self-congratulatory (of poet and/or reader), or nostalgic (comments about Englishness can be also be made here). You go (if you let it enchant you, rather than having a healthy and distancing vomit) "mmmm" at the end as you agree to its coy or cute or clever embrace: nothing new, just an over-familiar warm wet place. Innovative poetry makes you gasp in astonishment and surprise. It enlarges possibility. You are somewhere new and freshly alive.

If you want a more academic description of what is meant by innovative poetry, I give one from a very recent anthology elsewhere on the site.

British Innovative Poetry's impulses date back to the 1950s, picking up in the radical cultural movements of the 60s and 70s, maintained by several generations of genuine avant-garde writers, and with, since 2000, an increasing public awareness, both on an institutional basis and a popular basis. I can look back — not to 50s poetry! — but to doings of the late 60s, so I'm probably too concerned with looking backwards to its history. If you're interested, that's dealt with here: How Did British Innovative Poetry Come About? (where I'll refer you to Robert Sheppard's online A History of the Other). More recent developments this decade are discussed in So What's Going on Now?

And what is happening now is a resurgence of readings and other performative events (see Links page readings and other similar events/organisations), and an increase in the number of young poets whose writing comes within our magic phrase (see Links page readings and other similar events/organisations). After many decades of slow cultural and social change (for the better in many areas of widened inclusivity, however disastrous increasing economic and class/status inequalities), there is now more urgency for such change to be more widely embraced and embedded, and the whole constitution of our society rethought and restructured. Most cultural activities in Britain are pitched by either commercial or institutional interests, seeking profits, grants, favourable publicity for themselves or sponsors, or career-building brownie points for the workers and especially managers involved. In British Innovative Poetry a genuine avant-garde and growing grass-roots activity can work successfully together to create a genuine poetic culture of the present and the future.

Let's look at the actual characteristics of the poetry — enough such woolly sounding good intent!

The Typical Features of British Innovative Poetry:

home  home LISTS OF ONLINE RESOURCES from modernpoetry.org.uk How Did British Innovative Poetry Come About? So What's Going on Now? Recent Anthologies
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