livepoetry.net

The Reviews


Live Poetry is a landmark book in a desperately underexplored area of study. Novak has cracked the code of contemporary performance poetics, dissecting the craft as a cultural phenomenon and as a relational and somatic practice. Novak calls in the expertise of leading poet performers as well as a broad sweep of disciplines such as theatre studies, musicology, paralinguistics and kinesics. The result is a vital contribution to our understanding, not just of an artistic movement, but of an ancient practice that continues to be central to the human experience.

Peter Bearder, author of Stage Invasion: Poetry and the Spoken Word Renaissance (OutSpoken Press, 2019)

“Julia Novak’s Live Poetry is essential reading for anyone who cares about poetry and the difference performance makes. Until recently, live reading has been ‘largely invisible’ to literary criticism, as Darren Camlot and Jason Wershler put it in 2015, and yet  performance is the key term to understand contemporary verse and its many kinds of mediation. When it was first published, it was clear Live Poetry broke new ground in developing a robust, flexible methodology to analyse what is being done with the poet's body, voice and surroundings in all kinds of live readings. After years of teaching with it, I now appreciate how patient, sensitive and  subtle  its steps of thought are, and how generous to future generations of critics, who now have a far greater repertoire of terms with which to recognise what is going on before them.”

Peter Howarth, author of The Poetry Circuit (Oxford University Press, 2021)


“Novak provides the motivation and means for fresh engagement not only with a neglected ‘live literature scene’, but also with the vocal practices of a far wider range of poets.” Samuel Rogers, Modern Language Review 109.3 (2014).

“…a detailed and precise methodology to understanding and interpreting live poetry. … The clarity and structure of Novak’s dissertation are impressive given the small body of previous research and the interdisciplinarity of the subject matter. This systematic approach is unprecedented in the field of literary studies. As such, it is an overdue contribution to literary research in general and to the field of Spoken Word and Live Literature in particular.” Minu Hedayati-Aliabadi, Anglia 131 (2013).

“The first part of Novak's book also offers a definition of live poetry derived from what she calls 'the fundamental bi-mediality of the genre of poetry – i.e. its potential realisation as spoken or written word'. She goes on to argue that 'poetry's oral mode of realisation [...] is a parallel to, rather than a mere derivative 'version' of, the written mode'. This is one of those statements that is so obvious and feels so obviously right that one wonders why no-one came up with it before. … “This is an important intervention in an emerging critical field. It offers a refreshing perspective on a neglected aspect of poetry and makes one reflect on page-focused models of poetry criticism.” David Kennedy, Stride Magazine (2012)

“Readers will be grateful for her comprehensive research and its potential value to those seeking recognition for live poetry as an art form, and a grassroots mass movement ignored, not just by academia, but the media, the poetry establishment, and funding bodies. … Julia Novak correctly identifies a lack of analysis - of understanding – of this phenomenon, and her book goes some considerable way towards bridging the gap, and helping live poetry towards a coming of age. Anyone interested in the future of live poetry should read this book.” Julian Jordan, Write Out Loud (May 2012)

“Interview mit dem finnischen Spoken Word Poeten Harri Hertell und Besprechung Besprechung der literaturwissenschatlichen Arbeit “Live Poetry – An integrated Approach to Poetry in Performance”. Das Werk von Julia Novak versucht zum ersten Mal literaturwissenschaftliche Kriterien zur Analyse von Live Poetry zu entwickeln.” Knallfabet-Podcast Mai 2011

Live Poetry – An Integrated Approach to Poetry in Performance (Rodopi) is the first study I’ve seen that sets about trying to provide academics with an apparatus with which they can discuss the poetry reading. Poetry readings have become an essential part of the writing and distribution of poetry during the past forty years. Why is it that “we know almost nothing about how specific poems, poets and types of poetry have been shaped by expectations of performance?” … Novak is nothing if not thorough. Her study encompasses not just the poet with a voice on the platform but offers a whole analysis of how arm gestures, stances, introductions, contexts and ways of actually mouthing the words can have an effect on the emerging poem. … She concludes that there is a branch of artistic endeavour, of literature, being practised that has yet to be fully-engaged with by the academic community. She proposes that a start be made. She has something here.” Peter Finch, Blogspot, March 2012