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“Poetry Off the Page” is a five-year project, directed by Dr. Julia Lajta-Novak (University of Vienna), in collaboration with the British poetry organisation Apples and Snakes, the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama, Goldsmiths University of London, Queen Mary University of London, University College Dublin, and the National Library of Ireland. It is supported by an ERC Consolidator Grant and the START-Prize of the Austrian Science Fund (FWF).

A vital field of poetic production, the spoken word in poetry has experienced a noticeable boom for more than half a century. Cultural phenomena such as jazz poetry, Beat poetry, dub poetry, and poetry slam have given rise to thriving performance scenes across the world. The proliferation of new technologies and modes of distribution – via archives, the internet and other digital forms – has made spoken word more accessible than ever before.

Poetry Off the Page investigates the significance of poetry performance to recent British and Irish literary history, taking account of the aesthetic and political potential of oral performance in conjunction with the alternative institutional structures, publication channels, career pathways, presentational formats, styles, and poetic genres that have emerged from its dynamic performance scenes. Drawing on, and contributing to, the recent digital, we will write a history of British poetry performance. We will also conduct in-depth studies on the intersections of spoken word with literary and performance traditions, on Black British spoken-word poetry, the British poetry slam, Irish spoken word, and the spoken-word play.

A core aim of the project is to articulate multifaceted theoretical and methodological approaches to poetry performance analysis. By revealing the vital role of oral performance in the history of Anglophone British poetry, providing new sources, and cultivating spaces for its study, this project marks a fresh intervention in British literary history and seeks to establish poetry performance research as a recognised branch of historico-literary enquiry.

Start: 1 Sept 2021