School of English and Drama

Poetry and Poetics

The department is one of the strongest centres for the study of poetry and poetics in the UK, and is home to the Centre for Poetry.

From medieval verse and early modern psalms through the poetry being written today, staff have explored the forms, theory, production, and circulation of poetry throughout its history. The department's work in this area includes:

Practice-led research

Andrea Brady is a critically acclaimed poet, critic, and editor who has performed throughout the UK, US, and Europe. Her poetry has been translated into Spanish, French, and German, and been the subject of extensive critical commentary. Andrea’s critical work on contemporary poetry and poetics focuses in particular on poetry, politics, economics, and critical theory. She is the Director of the Archive of the Now and also co-publisher of the important small press Barque.

As both a critic and a poet, Katy Price has worked on several projects exploring the relationship between poetry and science and technology, including an installation by a sound artist at the Science Museum and a project about DNA at Canterbury. Her research on the poetry of William Empson revealed his debts to astronomy.

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Poetry criticism

Clair Wills is one of the world’s foremost critics of twentieth-century Irish poetry, and has published substantial critical works on Northern Irish poetry and Paul Muldoon. She is also the author of articles on Roy Fisher, Denise Riley, and Fanny Howe, and regularly reviews contemporary poetry for the Times Literary Supplement.

Peter Howarth’s groundbreaking work on modern poetry focuses on theories of form, the relation between mainstream and the avant-gardes, and the rise of performance culture. As the author of The Cambridge Introduction to Modernist Poetry, Peter examined the impact of anthropology and pedagogy in expanding ‘form’ to include audience, situation, and media. He is a regular reviewer of books of or about modern poetry for the London Review of Books.

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Dissemination of historical studies through contemporary media

Margaret Reynolds’s scholarly publications include well-respected studies of nineteenth-century poetry, women’s literature, and print culture. She has also been a writer and presenter of ‘Adventures in Poetry’ on BBC Radio 4 since 1998. The programmes explore the background, effect, and lasting appeal of a poem.

Other staff members who integrate poetry criticism into their research are Shahidha Bari (whose distinctive philosophical investigations of Keats, Shelley, and Byron have earned her a place as a sought-after media commentator) and Rachael Gilmour (whose project on Daljit Nagra also reflects her interest in postcolonial writing).

Anne Janowitz engages with the social experience of poetry from the late 17th century through the 20th. Her most recent work interprets the poetic discourse of the night sky in the culture of Newtonianism. She is also working on a study of Delmore Schwartz’s twentieth century American romanticism. Catherine Maxwell is an internationally recognised scholar of Victorian poetry, whose innovative work examines the feminization of the nineteenth-century lyric male poet (especially Algernon Charles Swinburne) and perfume in literary culture (focusing on the period 1860-1900). She is particularly interested in questions of influence and poetic tradition.

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Links to poets, publishers, and arts organisations

In October 2012, the department hosted the eminent Canadian poet Lisa Robertson as a distinguished visiting fellow. We are also home to the Archive of the Now, an online collection of recordings of over 140 poets performing their own work. Founded by in 2006, the Archive consists of freely accessible mp3 and video, as well as an extensive collection of printed materials and poets’ archives. The archive is distinctive for supporting the experimental poetic tradition, for being a ‘creative commons’ site with free access and downloads, and for its commitment to fostering emerging poets.

In 2012-13 the Archive is hosting a virtual Poet in Residence, who will produce twelve new works for the project and provide workshops for secondary school students on poetry in the digital age. The Archive has teamed up with local arts organisations to promote contemporary poetry and build audiences, and its holdings have been broadcast on the University of Pennsylvania’s PennSound radio station.

We also have partnerships with community arts organisations, venues, and museums. has helped to organise public events for the Poet in the City programme at Queen Mary, King’s Place, and the Victoria and Albert Museum. She has also collaborated with the Museum Of Childhood, Opera North, the English National Opera, the Royal Opera House, and the Glyndebourne Festival Opera, and her reviews and essays appear in the Times, literary festival programmes, and on the radio. is engaged in an ongoing curatorial collaboration with the Science Museum.

Dissertations on poetry and poetics

These include a Collaborative Doctoral Award funded by the Beyond Text initiative of the AHRC and co-hosted by the British Library Sound Archive.

We have also hosted a series of public seminars bringing poets and academics into dialogue, including workshops on Victorian poetry for the intercollegiate Nineteenth Century Studies seminar at the Institute of English Studies, and a conference for school-teachers on teaching poetry, co-organised with the National Association of Teachers of English (March 2010).

Staff working in these areas include: