ENG32180 Poetry in Performance

Academic Year 2023/2024


In brief this module considers ideas of poetic performance in terms of radio broadcast poetry, performance on the page and spoken word events, by focusing primarily on contemporary American Poetry and UK poetries. It has long been argued that Dylan Thomas’s readings in America during the 1950s and his broadcasts at the BBC altered the perception of how poetry can be performed. The module focuses on post WW2 poetry beginning with Thomas’s work. It reflects upon how American poets have also adapted their work for performance. Key texts considered may include the following: Thomas’s Under Milk Wood and poetry broadcasts at the BBC; Allen Ginsberg’s Howl; Sylvia Plath’s BBC radio poems and commissioned play Three Women and Amiri Baraka’s early performance / spoken word poetry. We will also consider the impact of UK Caribbean poets (Linton Kwesi Johnson and Jeana ‘Binta’ Breeze) on ideas of poetic performance and contemporary UK poets (such as Jay Bernard's investigation of the Windrush Scandal, New Cross Fire and Grenfell tragedy). There will also be the opportunity to reflect upon how recent American poets enact or perform the lyric self in their work (Lyn Hejinian and Language Poetries).

Attention will be given to textual experimentation and how poems address their readers and audience. Seminars will also give us an opportunity to listen to the way in which poems are performed through radio recordings and recordings of live performances on the web. Crucially, throughout the module we will examine the representation of race and ethnicity as well as the enacting of subjectivity and gender through poetic performance.

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Curricular information is subject to change

Learning Outcomes:

● Demonstrate fluent, academic, written communication
● Produce comprehensive and relevant individual research
● Critically engage with the process of writing through drafting, feedback, etc.
● Perform close-reading of texts leading to nuanced analysis

Students will also have
- An awareness of a variety of performance strategies for contemporary poets
- A broad knowledge of the cultural factors which have shaped the history of performance in recent poetry.
- The ability to recognise the difference between oral/ aural/ textual poetic performance strategies

Indicative Module Content:

Knowledge of Key American Poetic Manifestos post WW2
An overview of key schools of American Poetry post WW2
Awareness spoken word and the microphone/ broadcasting BBC
Alert to ideas of sonic performance and how poetry performs on page
An awareness to the reception of poems by audience

Student Effort Hours: 
Student Effort Type Hours
Autonomous Student Learning


Seminar (or Webinar)




Approaches to Teaching and Learning:
Peer and group work
Seminar discussion
Critical writing
Close textual reading
Critical awareness of theory and essays on poetry (poetics)
Requirements, Exclusions and Recommendations

Not applicable to this module.

Module Requisites and Incompatibles
Not applicable to this module.
Assessment Strategy  
Description Timing Open Book Exam Component Scale Must Pass Component % of Final Grade
Continuous Assessment: Class Contribution (online forum/ discussion)
Weekly Worksheet
Essay proposal
Throughout the Trimester n/a Graded Yes


Essay: 4.000 word research essay Coursework (End of Trimester) n/a Graded Yes


Carry forward of passed components
Resit In Terminal Exam
Autumn No
Please see Student Jargon Buster for more information about remediation types and timing. 
Feedback Strategy/Strategies

• Feedback individually to students, on an activity or draft prior to summative assessment
• Feedback individually to students, post-assessment
• Peer review activities

How will my Feedback be Delivered?

During the semester the students will be asked to review drafts of a creative response - the final grading will be performed by seminar coordinator There will be individual feedback with coordinator on marked essay proposal Prior to submission of essay, students encouraged to attend office hours to discuss their final research assignment

Core Texts for this course are
• Dylan Thomas Collected Poems (Dent, 2003) optional.
• Dylan Thomas Under Milk Wood. Any edition.
• Sylvia Plath Collected Poems (Faber, 2008) or any edition optional

Other materials (critical essays- key texts on poetic performance and mediatised performance which directly addresses race, gender and strategies of resistance) will be made available via Brightspace marked with a (B) on the syllabus.

It would be useful to source any copy of the following anthology

• Paul Hoover Postmodern American Poetry (New York: Norton -any edition) which includes short essays on poetic making (poetics) and some of the other poets we will be studying
Frank O'Hara, Allen Ginsberg, Amiri Baraka, Jeana ‘Binta’ Breeze, Lyn Hejinian, Linton Kwesi Johnson, Jay Bernard, Maya Angelou.
Timetabling information is displayed only for guidance purposes, relates to the current Academic Year only and is subject to change.
Seminar Offering 1 Week(s) - 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 29, 30, 31, 32, 33 Thurs 15:00 - 16:50