Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Poetry Journalism

I was recently checking out information about MIT's Graduate Program in Science Writing. The site announces that the program is "for English and science majors, freelance writers or journalists seeking a specialty, working scientists, and others in which to learn the art and discipline of science writing." I'm not planning to enroll or anything, but I've long been fascinated by some modes of science writing or science journalism as well as the popularity that the field has generated.   

Of course, I've been thinking about what might be called poetry journalism and literary journalism for some time now. But what might count as "news" in the world of African American poetry? As I've noted before, newspapers typically write about poets for three main reasons: 1.) a review of a recently published book; 2.) an article about receiving a major award 3.) an obituary.

In order to make poetry journalism more viable, we would need to identify far more reasons to write about poets and their works. Perhaps, we'd address developing trends, challenges and opportunities confronting poets, discoveries that scholars of poetry are making, key topics being raised and silences in the field, the anniversaries of notable publication dates, instances of poets involved in non-poetry and non-literary activities, and more. We'd need to produce feature articles, profiles, illustrative charts, interviews, and blog entries.

We'd also need some dedicated writers, not to mention supportive venues willing to showcase, nurture, and promote their work. Overall, we would also need clearer statements about why general audiences should even care about poetry and poets in the first place. Here again, we could use models offered in the field of science journalism. 

The better science writers find ways to make complex and detailed information from specific fields accessible and engaging for general audiences. Science writers are, we're told, "humanists, one foot in the sciences, the other in the arts, as apt to be seduced by a shapely sentence as by an elegant scientific idea." Poetry journalists might be envisioned in similar ways. 

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