The Blown Definitions: Towards a Poetics of the Multi-Vocal Poetic Radio Play

Kristina Potts

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

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The introduction of radio broadcasting in the early twentieth century, at a time of rapid development in global communications and travel technologies, prompted a radical re-imagining of the poet – and poetry’s – role in this new public, communal space. This thesis seeks to explore and define, critically and creatively, the poetics of the multi-vocal poetic radio play, a sub-genre fundamentally shaped by this reconfiguration. The thesis examines the development, form, and functioning of the multi-vocal poetic radio play which, I argue, is a sub-genre distinct from both the prose radio play and single-voice works of radio poetry. This thesis proposes that the multi-vocal poetic radio play is a reworking of western oral poetry traditions – originating in the oral heroic epic as authoritative, mnemonic, pre-literate repository of collective cultural memory – in the context of the twentieth and twenty-first century’s increasingly globalised, pluralistic and documentary modes of representation. Through the simultaneous mechanical reproduction of multiple poetic voices – through the troubling and breaking down of boundaries regarding presence and absence, intimacy and distance, subjectivity, mortality, time, and space – the multi-vocal poetic radio play tends to evoke and refer to dialogic and polyphonic traditions grounded in the liminality of communal ritual and festival.
My original multi-vocal poetic radio play script The Blown Definitions imagines a long-distance, elegiac dialogue between a man whose indigenous culture and land is disappearing and his second-generation English-speaking granddaughter. The play examines the potentials of the poetic radio voice, utilising telephone conversations, electronic dictionary definitions, and (fictional) radio broadcasts. The Blown Definitions, and the multi-vocal poetic radio play more generally, through its form and function, exposes and interrogates poetry’s functioning in relation to social dynamics – the “social moorings” of the poetic utterance – underlining poetry’s capacity to celebrate, critique and reconfigure the imagined communities that shape it.
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Royal Holloway, University of London
  • Shapcott, Joanne, Supervisor
  • Hampson, Robert, Advisor
Award date1 Aug 2017
Publication statusUnpublished - 2017


  • poetry
  • multi-vocal poetry
  • radio poetry
  • epic poetry
  • globalisation
  • media studies

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