Miss Briony Hughes

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Research interests

- Contemporary poetics 

- Ecopoetics 

- Feminisim and feminist theory

- Collaborative artistic practices 

- Site-specific writing

- Water and water bodies

- The intersection between poetry and the sciences 


Water plays a significant political and ecological role in the 21st Century consciousness, therefore, it is crucial to develop a water-based writing practice aligning with this contemporary moment. This thesis considers the movements of water, which occur on both a molecular and geographical scale, as structural, linguistic, and philosophical models for poetry. The starting point of the thesis is Charles Olson’s (1950) assertion that poetry must be a ‘high energy construct and an energy discharge’, as outlined in ‘Projective Verse’. I propose a poetics of motion, or a ‘kinetic poetics’, in which energy is stored and discharged within poetry, in the same way that energy is stored and discharged in bodies of water both geographically and on a molecular scale. 

Whilst Charles Olson writes in response to geographical landscapes, he does not consider the feminist implications of a site-specific poetics that are necessary for a 21st century contribution to this field of writing, which is contextualised by global inequalities in water sanitation and distribution, alongside the threat of climate change. Whilst contemporary philosophers such as Astrida Nemanis, Margrit Shildrick and Luce Irigarary are carrying out hydro-feminist readings of water, they do not offer a model for applying this field of thought to poetry.

The creative strand of the PhD will offer a model for high energy poetry by developing embodied research into the kinetics of a series of sites along the Thames foreshore. In doing so, I will create new possibilities for reading pre-established experimental poetry, including Susan Howe’s Debths and Hannah Wiener’s Clairvoyant Journal, by reconsidering their presentation of fragmented language on the page as water molecules in motion, which construct a larger water body. This thesis will consider poetics as a practice in ‘kinetic translation’, lifting this term from physical geography, wherein kinetic translational energy allows for the movement of objects.

Personal profile

Briony is a Techne AHRC funded practice-based doctoral researcher. She is interested in vibration and kinetic movement in language, water bodies, the archive, and site-specific writing. Briony's publications include Dorothy (Broken Sleep Books, 2020) and Microsporidial (Sampson Low, 2020). Her work has been featured in Datableed 12, Permeable Barrier, Stride Magazine, Visual Verse, Decorating Dissidence, and the New River Press 2019 Yearbook. Her limited edition bookworks have been collected by bookartbookshop, Senate House Library, National Poetry Library, and the Foyle Special Collections at Kings College London. Briony also curates the Crested Tit Collective pamphlet series, which can be found in the National Poetry Library. 

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