Luke Kennard on prose poetry, surrealism and invisibility


My research is very much informed by my practice
as a writer. So it’s informed by my own poetry and fiction writing. It breaks down into roughly three areas. One of those areas would be the prose poem
as a form. It’s essentially a poem that does away with line break. It’s something that
originates arguably with Baudelaire in 19th century France but it was very influential
on poets who cross the 20th century in the States and the continent and features in a
lot of collections of poetry now, both from the UK and overseas. I’m interested in how prose poetry interacts
with poetry which is in more traditional forms. And that’s something that a lot of my scholarly
articles will focus on. So looking at a contemporary writer’s body of work and the use that they
have made of the prose poem throughout that. Whether it differs from their other poetry.
Whether it informs their other poetry. Whether it challenges their sense of what a poem is. My second line of enquiry has to do with absurdism
and surrealism as an aesthetic, as a technique. I’m less interested in it as a historical
movement although I’m aware of it as an historical movement, I’m less interested in the cliqueyness
and the kind of rival factions of surrealists as they proliferated and existed. That to
me is the equivalent of Heat magazine than any kind of edifying literary criticism. I’m
interested in how it manifests now in novelists and poets work and also in work for the stage.
I think it’s particularly important in contemporary plays – they’re often very well versed in
absurdist technique and the use of the surreal and this can be done alongside a kind of realism
as well. I think there’s something inherently surreal
in poetry in isolating quite a mundane or everyday event and elevating it to the status
of the poem so I think they sit quite easily together, so something that used to be fairly
political, like surrealism, has become one tool among many that a writer can reach for
when they’re putting their work together. So that’s the second, my final area of study
has to do with invisibility in contemporary poetry and I’m interested there in the way
in which a writer can be a lauded emerging poet and then after many many years could
become a celebrated veteran poet and the years in between where she or he is actually producing
the vast majority of their work, when a lot of collections will come out and they will
develop and change as an artist, that tends to get neglected. There’s a real dearth of
critical material and scholarly articles being written about these poets – a couple of reviews
here and there are as much as you tend to get – so a lot of writers fly under the radar
and the ones that don’t necessarily get multiple shortlistings and awards can fade into obscurity
or eventually get celebrated many many years later, decades of tireless thankless work.
And this is something that I don’t like to say this is something that I worry about or
keeps me up at night but it’s something that I want to address and I think it would be
worth having a research network of poet critics who are writing significant and substantial
articles about contemporary poets, the ones who are in that middle period. That’s more
or less the three areas that I’m looking into.

2 thoughts on “Luke Kennard on prose poetry, surrealism and invisibility

  1. This guy rocks (or he takes them). I've never seen a human being like him before. Saw him read in Liverpool at the Ship and Mitre pub in 2012.

  2. We're very curious – is that a Poem on the Underground poster behind Luke? (If so, which one?)

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