Hydropoetics in the work of Charles Olson and Kathleen Fraser: Osmosis and Projective Verse for Contemporary Poetic Practice

Briony Hughes

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

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This practice-based PhD offers an ecological renegotiation of Charles Olson’s 1950 Projective Verse manifesto towards a feminist contemporary poetic practice. David Herd’s 2015 Contemporary Olson necessitates the renewed study of Olson within a 21st century context, the publication simultaneously problematises the act of participating in a projective poetics by calling attention to the intimacies between the language of projectivism and the language of the nuclear sciences. In response I ask, how might a poetic practitioner navigate Charles Olson’s 1950 ‘Projective Verse’ within an era of ecological crisis? The practice-based thesis addresses this question through an exploration of the nuclear contexts of Olson’s initial post- war methodology and turns toward the radical poetics of Kathleen Fraser, who insists that Olson’s manifesto generated the poetic methodologies necessary for an expansion of women’s writing practice in North America and the UK. Fraser’s analogy of ‘osmosis’, which illustrates the community transmission of Olson’s ‘Projective Verse’, is crucial to my development of Olsonian projectivism for a contemporary poetic context. I offer a kinetically viable alternative to the high-energy model of the nuclear reaction informed by the movement of hydraulic cycles. Reconceptualising Olson’s projective interrelation as a ‘hydropoetics’, I draw on the emerging field of the Blue Humanities, Astrida Neimanis’ cultural theory of ‘hydrofeminism’ (2017), alongside the poets Susan Howe and Norma Cole, who are identified by Fraser as making use of Olson’s expanded page for new feminist poetries. This thesis culminates with a range of practice-based models for a hydropoetic writing practice, framed as a series of bookarts and performances.
Original languageEnglish
  • Olsen, Redell, Supervisor
  • Montgomery, Will, Advisor
Thesis sponsors
Award date1 May 2024
Publication statusPublished - 2024


  • poetry
  • Post war poetry
  • hydropoetics
  • Charles Olson
  • Ecopoetry
  • Kathleen Fraser
  • Practice-based PhD
  • practice-based research

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