Poetics and Poetry… visual arts, ekphrasis, sound and scores, poets theatre, concrete and visual poetry, modernism, translation, bookarts, digital poetics, performance, feminism, ecology, critical theory, poetics of site and place, hybrid and conceptual, art writing…
The Royal Holloway Poetics Research Centre comprises a number of staff members in the English department with an interest in contemporary poetry and poetics and in the use of text across diverse media: Dr Will Montgomery, Professor Redell Olsen, Dr Prue Bussey-Chamberlain, and Professor Robert Hampson.
Among the research specialisms of the centre are contemporary writing in the modernist tradition, concrete and visual poetry, site-specific writing, bookarts, performance, sound art, poetry and film, the British Poetry Revival, poetry and the visual arts, conceptual poetics and radical lyric.
The Poetics Research Centre embraces both theoretical and practice-based work: in parallel with their critical activities. The Poetics Research Centre is integral to the dynamic research culture in poetry and poetics at Royal Holloway. Its members welcome approaches from prospective students interested in Creative Writing and Practice-based PhDs.
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What is the Poetics Research Centre?
The Poetics Research Centre promotes research activities in writing and radical textual practice in relation to poetry and poetics, concrete and visual poetry, site-specific writing, bookarts, performance, sound art, poetry and film, poetry and the visual arts, conceptual poetics and innovative lyric form. The interests of the centre are determined in response to the aesthetics and practices of the modernist tradition, experimental European avant-gardes, language and post-language writing, fluxus, performance writing, the British Poetry revival, art writing, conceptual poetics and emergent forms of critical practice.
Important research areas explored by the centre include the development of poetic forms and hybrid writing practices as they emerge out of dialogue, collaboration and exchange with other art forms. Our work both as curators and as practitioners: Redell Olsen’s Film Poems and live-performances with visuals, her film Now Circa (1918) and Will Montgomery’s sound compositions highlight some of these intermedial crossing points in our own practice. We are also interested in how the relationship between poetics and contemporary modes of critical thought might provide a basis for a poetics that seeks to explore and demonstrate the possibilities for a socially and politically engaged dynamic writing practice that questions and redefines the limits of genre.
The Poetics Research Centre runs one-off events with visiting poets, artists, musicians and critics as well as extended projects, conferences and seminars on particular themes such as; translation, ecology, sound, feminisms, race. The work of the Poetics Research Centre is strongly informed by international and transatlantic dialogues and especially with the synergies that have emerged over the years between ourselves and colleagues in France and North America. The Poetics Research Centre provides a forum for dialogue involving postgraduate students and staff and also seeks to engage with European and international creative and critical practitioners in the area of poetics and poetic practice.
Background to the Poetics Research Centre
The Poetics Research Centre has grown out of the ongoing collective and individual work and interests of the centre members. One of the lineages of how the centre has approached the term ‘innovative’ in relation to poetry as described in work included in the British Poetry Revival as evidenced in Robert Hampson and Peter Barry’s collection, The New British Poetries (1993) and the work discussed in the contemporary Journal of British and Irish Innovative Poetics. Robert Hampson’s Innovative Poetry seminars (currently at the IES) date back to the 1990s, and have their roots in the Talks series initiated by Bob Perelman in the late 1970s in the Bay Area. Another line of derivation comes through Redell Olsen’s editing of the international electronic journal How2.
Redell Olsen’s critical research interests include women writers and the visual arts since 1970 and the poetics of language and post-language writing in relation to conceptual and minimal art movements. For over ten years she managed and later edited the international journal How2 which pioneered the work of women writers, digital poetics and radical forms of criticism and continued the work of American poet Kathleen Fraser’s However project. In 2002 she set up the MA in Poetic Practice. Her own creative work has emerged in relation to crossovers between fine art and poetry traditions and is figured across performance, film, poetry and criticism. Her current writing engages with visual and poetic responses to ecological crisis and feminist theory. She also produces hybrid creative-critical work such as her recent essay for the volume Artistic Research and Literature (2019). For some years she has been exploring alternative models to workshop-led creative writing practices and has recently run two highly successful projects to encourage students to make their own writing and bookworks in response to archival collections. She received an Arts Council Museums and Universities Partnership Initiative grant to undertake this work in 2017 with the MA in Poetic Practice students.
Will Montgomery’s recently co-edited a collection of essays on field recordings and literature. His publications include The Poetry of Susan Howe (Palgrave, 2010) and the essay collection Frank O'Hara Now (Liverpool UP, 2010), which he co-edited with Robert Hampson. He is currently working on a study of short form in modernist and contemporary US poetry. Will also works with audio, making field recordings, sound art and music to critical acclaim.
Robert Hampson currently edits the PRAG-UK blog which is a major reference point for staff and students engaged in practice-based research https://prag-uk.org. In 2019 he was a keynote speaker at the UEA / IES summit Creative-Critical.
In recent years we curated the highly influential series of events at the Centre for Creative Collaboration which was known as Polyply and after the loss of this venue we have curated events and series in other pop-up venues as Polyprojects. We have also collaborated with colleagues from other departments in Modern Languages and Media Arts. For example, Nature and Other Forms of That Matter was funded by Hari in 2016-7 and comprised poetry readings, film, sound and critical interventions on the theme of ecology. We have also worked closely with colleagues from the Centre for Victorian Studies in relation to a number of events, most recently in relation to the celebration of women’s suffrage in 2018. Nisha Ramayya (now at Queen Mary) and Robert Hampson also contributed to the Race & Poetry & Poetics in the UK research group (www.rapapuk.com).
To date the Poetics Research Centre has foregrounded work produced in relation to radical small press and independent publishers. We showcase work in an annual reading event and exhibition at the Small Publishers Fair at Conway Hall in November each year and many current and former students and staff contribute to this event. In recent years this distinction, particularly in relation to writers from the US, has become more of a grey area with so many innovative American (and at least some British) poets are again being published by commercial presses such as Penguin. The Poetics Research Centre actively seeks to find new ways to publish and disseminate work across a variety of platforms than include the digital, the analogue and performance-based cultures. We encourage and mentor our own postgraduate students in the curation of their own events series as demonstrated by Simon Pomery’s influential series at Café Oto in 2017-18 and the events / performance series by The Crested Tit Collective in 2019.
AWW-STRUCK: Creative and Critical Approaches to Cuteness
Poetics Research Centre PhD researcher Caroline Harris is co-organiser of the ‘AWW-STRUCK’ events series and publication, which aim to advance and expand the field of Cute Studies in the Arts and Humanities and establish the collaborating institutions (Royal Holloway and University of Birmingham) as a hub for this growing area. A virtual day seminar on 21 May 2021 presented three panels and a film screening, with papers from international professors, ECRs and PGR students based in the UK, Japan, Nigeria and Sweden, including four from Royal Holloway. A linked exhibition was curated by RHUL MA Poetic Practice graduate Astra Papachristodoulou. The seminar was hosted for Royal Holloway by the Poetics Research Centre and co-organised by Dr Isabel Galleymore (UoB), with introductions by Professor Redell Olsen (RHUL) and Dr Megan Cavell (UoB) and funding from RHUL’s Humanities and Arts Research Institute. A recording, exhibition and publication links can be found on the AWW-STRUCK website.
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Students and The Poetics Research Centre
Centre members are active in the supervision of PGR students, and have supported a rigorous and innovative approach to both critical and practice-based PhDs. The Centre’s priorities are evidenced at MA level in the Poetic Practice strand of the MA in CW and the legacies of the former stand-alone MA in Poetic Practice. The Poetic Practice MA has produced numerous successful practitioners (both poets and critics) who are now leading lights in their own right at institutions in the UK and abroad. Many of our interests are shared by colleagues at the Centre for Contemporary Poetics at Birkbeck, which is run by former alumni of the MA in Poetic Practice. Other poets now active as teachers in UK Universities who undertook the MA in Poetic Practice include: Sophie Robinson (UEA) and Nisha Ramayya (Queen Mary). We also share interests with the Modern Poetry Centre at Kent which is currently headed by Juha Virtanen (author of Poetry and Performance During the British Poetry Revival 1960–1980 [Palgrave, 2017]).
A number of our current students are invited to become associate members of the centre and play an important role in contributing to the centre’s initiatives and activities.
Prudence Bussey-Chamberlain is a Lecturer in Creative Writing at Royal Holloway University. Her practice works at the intersections of politics and poetics, with a particular emphasis on the ways in which feminism and queerness can be problematized through flippancy. Initially focusing on the New York School, her work has recently shifted towards memoir and new narrative. Her collaboratively written House of Mouse, a series of poems on Disney, was published by Knives, Forks and Spoons Press in 2016. *retroviral, a chapbook, was published by Oystercatcher Press in 2018. She has published two books of criticism: The Feminist Fourth Wave: Affective Temporality (Palgrave Macmillan, 2017) and Queer Troublemakers: The Poetics of Flippancy (Bloomsbury, 2019).
Professor Robert Hampson has had a long-standing involvement in contemporary innovative poetry. He co-edited the magazine Alembic during the 1970s and the occasional magazine purge in the 1990s. He co-edited the pioneering critical volume, The New British Poetries: The scope of the possible (Manchester University Press, 1993) with Peter Barry, and, more recently, Frank O'Hara Now (Liverpool University Press, 2010) with Will Montgomery and a volume of essays and reminiscences, CLASP: Late Modernist Poetry in London in the 1970s (Shearsman, 2016), with Ken Edwards. Robert has recently co-edited The Allen Fisher Companion (Shearsman, 2020). After many years co-organising the TALKS series which Bob Perelman set up in London, he now co-organises the Contemporary Innovative Poetry Research Seminar at the IES. He has also co-organised various reading series including, most recently, Amid the Ruins (with Prue Chamberlain and Carrie Foulkes) at the Daniel Blau Gallery. He has been a judge for the English Association Poetry Competition and for the Michael Marks Awards. Stride published his Selected Poems 1973-1998 in 2000, and his long poem ‘Seaport’ was re-published by Shearsman in 2008. More recent publications include an explanation of colours (Veer, 2010), reworked disasters (Knives forks & spoons, 2013), sonnets 4 sophie (pushtika, 2015) and liverpool (hugs &) kisses (Ship of Fools/ pushtika, 2015) with Robert Sheppard. The volume, reworked disasters, was longlisted for the Forward Prize.
Dr. Will Montgomery works on contemporary poetry and poetics. He is the author of Short Form American Poetry: The Modernist Tradition (Edinburgh, 2020), The Poetry of Susan Howe: History, Theology, Authority (Palgrave, 2010) and he co-edited (with Robert Hampson) Frank O’Hara Now: New Essays on the New York Poet (Liverpool UP, 2010). With Stephen Benson, he co-edited Writing the Field Recording: Sound, Word, Environment (Edinburgh, 2018). He has published many articles on contemporary poetry. He has a long-standing involvement, as critic and practitioner, in contemporary experimental music, field recording and sound art (http://www.selvageflame.com).
Dr. Redell Olsen is the current director of the RHUL Poetics Research Centre. Her publications include: Woolf/Apelles (Electronic Crinolines, 2019), Film Poems (Les Figues, 2014), Punk Faun (Subpress, 2012), Book of the Fur (Rempress, 2000), Secure Portable Space (Reality Street, 2004) and the collaboratively edited Here Are My Instructions (Gefn Press, 2004). From 2006 – 2010 she was the editor of the online journal How2 and published modernist and innovative poetry and poetics by women writers. Her work is included in the anthologies: Trenchart Monographs Hurry Up Please Its Time (Les Figues, 2015), Out of Everywhere 2 (Reality Street, 2015), Infinite Difference: Other Poetries by UK Women Poets (Shearsman, 2010) and I’ll Drown My Book: ‘Conceptual Writing by Women’ (Les Figues Press, 2011). Her recent projects have involved texts for performance and film. 'The Lost Swimming Pool’; a site-specific collaboration that was commissioned by the Creative Campus Initiative, June 2010. She has published articles on Frank O’Hara, Abigail Child, on field recording and on the relationship between contemporary poetics, feminism and the visual arts. Her current research interests include ecology and the environment, film and performance. Redell Olsen’s film, ‘Now Circa 1918’ was shortlisted for an AHRC research in film award. Further information: http://redellolsen.co.uk/.
Alison Gibb is a poet-artist and researcher. Her current research investigates language to create poetic outcomes through experimental explorations into the processes, methods and critical spaces of visual art, poetry and performance. Her publications include: a.vase , 2017, Silent Diagrams -2013, Parallel To Red In Chorus -2011 are published by The Knives, Forks and Spoons press. Her sound collage CD, Pomegranates In The Oak, was produced by zimZalla in 2012, and her bookwork I am knot . . .a. poster in pieces of POWER was published by ambergris press in 2015. Alison has an ongoing collaborative partnership with choreographer Elaine Thomas. Together, they have developed and performed a series of live-poetic-dance-performances at commercial venues, conferences and peer-to-peer forums. Projects & Performances include: Thus in the crossing at the Practice, Process & Paradox Conference, 2013 & E:POETRY 2013 & OUTPOST at Siobhan Davis Dance Forum, 2010, Village Underground, 2010 & The Roehampton Dance Festival, 2010. She has recently collaborated with experimental organist and composer Lauren Redhead on the improvised performance of Sightings: Instructions for scores at Encounters -Automatronic: London Nov 2016. Originally trained as an artist Alison’s poetic works co-exist in a variety of forms including: drawings, sound-scores, bookworks, live & video performances, instructions, texts and as poetry. She currently is completing her PhD at RHUL. Further information: http://www.alisongibb.com/
Aimée Lê (b. 1990, Ann Arbor, MI) is a Vietnamese American writer. With Fiona Chamness, she is the author of Feral Citizens (Red Beard Press, 2011).Recent projects include an EP of (mis)translated Greek pop songs, Aliki in Saigon(interview), presented at the Sound Acts festival in conjunction with AMOQA/Athens Museum of Queer Arts, publications in Muzzle, Litmus Press editions, and The Journal of British and Irish Innovative Poetry. Her main interests include materialism, Marxist theory, performance, narrative and the novel. Some past forms of communal living have included organising a full-time tent occupation of Dartmouth College in solidarity with Occupy Wall St. and a live-work collective, West Side School for the Desperate. She currently lives in London in a tent in an ecological commune in opposition to airport expansion, and is pursuing a PhD in Practice-based Poetics at Royal Holloway, University of London, on “‘The National Question’ in American Literature 1913-present”.
Mae Losasso is a funded PhD student at Royal Holloway, who joined the University in 2016, after completing her BA and MA in English Literature at the University of Sussex.
Her main interests are in: avant-garde poetry, spanning the twentieth century and into the twenty-first; architectural discourse and its relationship to poetics; politics and literature; twentieth-century literary theory and philosophy.
She is particularly interested in the relationship between poetics, space, and politics, and is committed to an interdisciplinary approach to the study of literature. Her ongoing thesis, ‘Evolutions of political space: poetry and architecture as radical sites of shifting politics from 1950-present’, brings together architectural discourse and literary theory to reexamine the politics of contemporary avant-garde poetics.
In 2016, she co-organised ‘Embodied Methodologies’, Royal Holloway's annual practice-based research conference.
Simon Pomery is a poet, sound artist and TECHNE associate researching a critical PhD at Royal Holloway on innovative poetries and ethics, supervised by Robert Hampson. With support from the Poetics Research Centre he founded PRAXIS in 2016, an interdisciplinary poetry series for text and sound held at Parasol-unit foundation for contemporary art, where he also teaches poetry workshops in conjunction with the gallery’s exhibitions. His poetry has been published by 3am magazine, The White Review, PN Review, Poetry London, and the Times Literary Supplement, with a pamphlet called The Stream published in 2010 by tall-lighthouse.
Under the name BLOOD MUSIC Simon has presented text-sound compositions at festivals including Berlin Atonal, Full of Noises, UH Fest, Elevate, Les Urbaines, Incubate, and venues across England and Japan. At the 2016 TECHNE congress he gave a paper on digital surveillance in Caroline Bergvall’s Drift. He has held artist residencies at MultiMadeira and Cafe Oto. http://cargocollective.com/simonpomery
Caroline Harris is a poet, writer, editor and publisher. Her PhD research focuses on the poetics of deer in relation to Cute Studies, ecological philosophy, and material poetries. Caroline is co-organiser of AWW-STRUCK: Creative and Critical Approaches to Cuteness, which has so far produced a virtual day seminar, online exhibition and book (May 2021).
Publications include the poetry bookworks SCRUB Management Handbook No.1 Mere (Singing Apple Press, 2018), Type Flight and Cut-out Bambi (Small Birds Press, 2020), article ‘Movable Type: Birds, Thoughts, Print’ (The Blue Notebook: Journal for Artist’s Books, 2020) and a chapter in Contemporary Publishing and Book Culture (Routledge, 2020).