25 August 2014

Publishing Poetry Research

The most conventional means of making public some poetry research is to write an article in an academic journal or a chapter in an edited book. Sometimes the book may be focussed on poetry research from a specific area; the journal almost always publishes vastly more on prose than on poetry. Both can sometimes be so slack with their interest in poetry than quoted lines of verse lose their correct layout somewhere in the process. If you’re lucky, you get to waste an entire day re-inserting line breaks into quotations in a final proof; if you’re unlucky, the final proof gets ransacked after the final author check and the article is published with the verse run on as prose, making a nonsense of your analysis. The semi-live spoken predecessor of both these written forms is usually the 25- to 30-minute conference paper.
Radio is a different way of publishing. I went to give a presentation to the BBC and they gave each academic speaker a 4-minute slot. What can anyone say in 4 minutes? Out went any nodding to sources, any evidencing of points, any discussion as such. Instead I chose two big loose ideas and two mini examples and that was my four minutes spent. In the event of making the programme that I had effectively been pitching that day, I got to record over 90 minutes of spoken comments. No script, nothing like a conference paper, no scaffolding, no poetry quotations; it was strangely different to any other way I’ve made public my poetry research in the past. The outcome will be cut together some time in the autumn by the editor to make a 30-minute programme and until then I’ll wait uncertainly to see what emerges. A bit of fun or a viable means of publishing? Who knows!