Poetry Beyond Text / Scottish Poetry Library 'Archive of Reading'

Award Holder

Dr Andrew Michael Roberts

Higher Education Institute

Department of English, University of Dundee

Project Summary

The 'Poetry Beyond Text: Vision, Text and Cognition' project (2009-2011) has used methods and theories from literary criticism, aesthetics, human experimental psychology, fine art and creative practice to study how readers respond to hybrid works which combine poetry with images, or the textual with the visual. This has included: tracking the process of reading using eye-tracking and other experimental techniques; discussions and theoretical investigations with poets, artists and student volunteer 'co-researchers'; experimental processes of transfer between image-based and textual forms; and commissioned works exploring the potentialities of these hybrid forms as well as recording the processes of collaboration and creation. One result was to emphasize that a reading performed (silently or otherwise) by an 'audience member' can be as unique and as interesting as one performed by a poet. While we have many and varied archives of writing, the seemingly ephemeral (but crucial) act of reading itself - the cognitive, emotive and physical processes which occur while an individual is engaged with a text - has rarely been documented. We have started to build up records of individuals reading, and would now like to develop the potential of such records to engage members of the public in processes of reflection on the experience of reading poetry and the cultural and personal value and meaning associated with this.

The Scottish Poetry Library (SPL) is a unique resource centre of recognised excellence for poetry, which provides access to its extensive resources without charge and acts as the authoritative provider of poetry expertise in Scotland, with a reputation for providing a professional and accessible service to a wide range of users from academic to general public. In the original 'Poetry Beyond Text' application, the SPL was identified as a possible repositories for commissioned poetic works at the conclusion of the project. However, over time we have built an informal partnership with the SPL, and we now see an opportunity to formalise this relationship and to work together to develop an 'Archive of Reading' This which would share insights, results and understanding arising from the Poetry Beyond Text project with the diverse user community of the SPL, enhancing the value and benefits of this publicly-funded research to a wider audience. It would also contribute the key aims of the SPL: to bring the pleasures and benefits of all kinds of poetry to as wide an audience as possible, and to provide a range of innovative opportunities to engage with poetry and for shared enjoyment.

The 'Archive of Reading' follow-on project would:

  1. Edit, format and present the records of readings that have been gathered during the Poetry Beyond Text project, in a format that will be accessible and meaningful for library users.
  2. Add to these records of readings of works commissioned as part of the Poetry Beyond Text project, and of works in the SPL collection, in both cases to be accompanied by explanatory / interpretative material.
  3. Develop and deliver workshops for poetry readers in Edinburgh, Glasgow and Ayr, to facilitate the engagement of library users with the archive and increase awareness of the archive as a permanent resource.
  4. Examine audience responses to the works commissioned by the PBT project, by studying how they are read within the context of the exhibition and workshops.
  5. Invite the library users to contribute to and further develop the archive after the project, by recording their own responses to works in the collection.


Arts & Humanities Research Council: Each year the AHRC provides approximately £100 million from the Government to support research and postgraduate study in the arts and humanities, from archaeology and English literature to design and dance. In any one year, the AHRC makes approximately 700 research awards and around 1,000 postgraduate awards. Awards are made after a rigorous peer review process, to ensure that only applications of the highest quality are funded. Arts and humanities researchers constitute nearly a quarter of all research-active staff in the higher education sector. The quality and range of research supported by this investment of public funds not only provides social and cultural benefits but also contributes to the economic success of the UK. See Arts & Humanities Research Council website.