Adelaidean - News from the University of Adelaide The University of Adelaide Australia
Spring 2013 Issue
Current issue (PDF) | Archive | Editorial Contact

Experimenting with words

Budding writers at the University of Adelaide are having their creative talents unlocked in a dynamic program that is testing the boundaries of experimental writing.

In the same way scientists use laboratories to make discoveries, young writers are being encouraged to take risks and venture into the unknown with the written word.

It's an approach which has produced a growing list of impressive writers from Australia and overseas, including MAN Asian Literary Prize winner Miguel Syjuco, Carol Lefevre and Rachel Hennessy.

For most students there are elements of the Creative Writing course which are as surprising as they are exciting.

"Many have grown up with a predominance of fantasy and that's how they see creative writing - thank you Harry Potter," says Lecturer Dr Ros Prosser.

"Through experimental writing and poetry we encourage them to step outside what they are familiar with and help them to think about themselves and their
world differently.

"There are lots of different types of writing and techniques they could be using - once you understand that you can play around with words in a big way."

A recipient of the Dean's Prize for Excellence in Teaching, Dr Prosser recently co-edited Mud Map: A first collection of experimental writing by Australian women for the
new century.

Published online, the Mud Map is a landmark anthology featuring 33 of Australia's most distinguished and upcoming women writers, including University alumni and creative writing PhD candidate Naomi Horridge.

Creations in the collection are diverse and inspiring - typical of the writings being encouraged in the Creative Writing course.

The experimental focus of the program has a strong emphasis on poetry, a subject directed by Senior Lecturer Jill Jones, an award-winning poet and writer who is widely published in Australia and overseas.

She will be publishing her eighth full-length book, The Beautiful Anxiety, later this year.

One of Ms Jones' goals is to see poetry recognised as important as any other form of writing. The performance of her students is providing cause for encouragement.

"Often there's a feeling in the community that poetry is hard and obscure, but it's a way of experimenting with language and trying new forms that are not formulaic," she says.

"I'm starting to uncover students who are looking at poetry in creative new ways and presenting it online, live and on the page. It's really pleasing to see them uncovering exciting ideas for exploring language, and I'm sure some of them will become very influential."

Ms Jones says course students are finding the space and freedom to take risks and step outside their normal thinking, using poetry as a way of working with diverse processes and structures.

"A lot of poetry is what I would call R&D - experimenting with language, sound and rhythm. This is creative research at work, the research of creative
language itself."

But while the style of writing may be new and innovative, the idea of experimental writing has in fact been around for generations. The French term avant-garde refers to people who are prepared to innovate and push the boundaries.

And what may seem terribly out there today, may well be common place in another 100 years. But not always.

Like all scientists or researchers, experimental writers must expect the odd failure.

"You must be prepared to fail at some stage and that's the issue - how do you turn an experiment into something that is still readable and which people can access," says Dr Prosser.

"It's about setting up a tone or feeling and finding ways to soften the reader into making them still read. There are standard ways and there are different, experimental ways."

Bookmark and Share

Media Contact:

Media Office
External Relations
The University of Adelaide
Business: +61 8 8313 0814

For more news on the research and educational achievements of the University & our alumni read the University's bi-annual magazine, Lumen.