CHAPTER 3
Performance and the Poem

The term ‘performance poetry’ is now commonly used to describe a presentation that may never be transcribed into volume or a book. ‘Performance’ in this context indicates the interaction of poetry with its audience; the event may often be ephemeral and experiential, such as a slam poem or improvised talk. The focus of this chapter is to consider how contemporary poetry may ‘perform’ in a plurality of senses. Drawing from poetic manifestos, we can consider the poetry performance as a form of musicality: poetry, as Charles Olson suggested, becomes a score for the voice. Focusing on poets associated with cultural movements and protest writing, poetry can also perform the demands of appealing to an audience and inciting change. Performance poetry in this light allows for textures of call and response, humour, parody and polyphony. While performance may emphasise a dramatic component, in considering textual performance contemporary poetry also ‘performs’ visually on the page–through experimental typography. I consider the various ways that poetry may perform or can be considered in Judith Butler’s formulation ‘performative’. Approaching performance as the sonic or textual iteration of rhetorical gestures and personas enables a more nuanced consideration of how identities are performed as processes of mobility and change. Increasingly in both critical and poetic circles there has been attention to ‘performance writing’ that places its focus upon an investigation of the performance of language in different fields.

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Contemporary Poetry
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Series Preface ix
  • Acknowledgements x
  • Chronology xii
  • Introduction 1
  • Chapter 1 - Lyric Subjects 25
  • Chapter 2 - Politics and Poetics 58
  • Chapter 3 - Performance and the Poem 98
  • Chapter 4 - Environment and Space 133
  • Chapter 5 - Dialects, Idiolects and Multilingual Poetries 171
  • Conclusion 207
  • Student Resources 231
  • Index 255
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