Monash University
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What is a poem worth? an investigation of poetry participation in Australia

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posted on 2017-03-03, 01:26 authored by Loughrey, Kerry
In Melbourne, poems are everywhere. They are in lounge rooms, hotels, festivals, toilets, wedding ceremonies and funerals. Poems are pasted in alleyways, spray-painted on walls, emailed and facebooked and blogged. In this research project, by applying Bourdieu’s concept of a symbolic good, I track the exchange of symbolic and commodity values in the cultural field of poetry participation in Melbourne. I focus on two public domains of reception. The first domain is where poems are presented in hard-copy journals and books, and the second is where poems are seen and heard in public performance. I do not assume that a poet who presents their poems in performance made a decision during the composition process to present their poem in performance only. I define the dominant categories of page poetry and performance poetry as presentations of poems and acts of participation in poetry as a literary genre. I argue that the nomenclature of literary categories, which are given orthodoxy in arts funding, journal submission, prize entry and book solicitation guidelines in the cultural field of Australian poetry, constitutes symbolic violence. In current means of evaluation, poems presented in performance are often excluded from the literary genre of poetry. The conditions of access to the evaluation of a poem perpetuate this exclusion, as I find in the research setting of Melbourne, 2013 to 2015. The thesis has two parts, a written component and a performance component. The written component outlines the investigation and findings of the research project. I locate the means, terms and categories of poetry evaluation within international, national and local public settings and present the analysis as a series of contextual landscapes. The exegesis explores the practice-led investigation which is the last and overarching landscape. The production and presentation of poems is another approach to the research questions, and another way to further investigate previous findings. Yet even here, the poem drives the inquiry. I suggest that, in order to more closely evaluate poetry, the poem remain the object of evaluation and, in this case, the research subject. Additional material(s) submitted with thesis.


Principal supervisor

Stuart Grant

Additional supervisor 1

Felix Nobis

Year of Award


Department, School or Centre

Theatre and Performance

Degree Type


Campus location



Faculty of Arts