ENG10 - Raising the Profile of Modern Poetry in Contemporary Culture

Submitting Institution

University of York

Unit of Assessment

English Language and Literature

Summary Impact Type


Research Subject Area(s)

Language, Communication and Culture: Cultural Studies, Literary Studies
History and Archaeology: Historical Studies

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Summary of the impact

Throughout his career, Hugh Haughton has integrated his pioneering research on modern poetry, especially the poetry of T.S. Eliot, Derek Mahon and poets of World War II, with a strong and sustained commitment to advocating its central place in cultural life. Poetry, however, requires interpretation by critic and performer to play its public role, and Haughton's own critical and interpretative work has played a part in shaping poetry's public reception by actively influencing how publishing houses, the media, a major gallery and the Department of Culture, Media and Sport represent poetry. He has also established a regular public forum for poets to read in York. In so doing, he has worked to give greater public prominence to and understanding of poetry in Britain and beyond.

Underpinning research

Haughton's research was undertaken as Senior Lecturer (1992-2007) and Professor (2007- present) at the University of York. It deals with poetry from the early 19th century to the present, with a particular focus on modernism, war poetry, nonsense, and contemporary British and Irish poetry. Haughton investigates the central role of allusiveness and the historical play of language, as well the relationship between poems and letters as forms of mediation between the personal and public spheres. Throughout Haughton's research, he has sought to define poets' sense of the public role of poetry, and its cultural and social value as a medium in their time and ours.

Haughton's co-editorship (with Valerie Eliot) of the first two volumes of The Letters of T.S. Eliot entailed major re-evaluations of this iconic poet's biography and reputation. Until Haughton took on the editorship in 2007, publication of Eliot's letters had been stalled. Haughton was responsible for an extensive revision of Volume 1, incorporating over 200 new letters, updating and expanding the level of contextual annotation, undertaking new archival and biographical research and clarifying the chronology of the composition of The Waste Land. He also edited the entirely new Volume 2, significantly expanding knowledge of the most publically influential poet of the 20th century, and laying the basis for the ongoing multi-volume edition of the letters.

Haughton's The Poetry of Derek Mahon, first full-length monograph of this major contemporary poet, was described by Bernard O'Donoghue as `the standard work on Mahon' and `one of the critical cornerstones for the understanding both of Northern Irish Poetry' and `contemporary poetry...on both sides of the Atlantic.' Mahon wrote that `a good poem is a paradigm of good politics': Haughton documents the ways his poetry evolved in the context of political conflict in N Ireland. By detailed engagement with political and cultural history, the poet's archives and personal interviews, Haughton demonstrates the scale and intensity of the poet's exemplary engagement with major political and environmental issues in Ireland, the UK, and the USA.

Haughton's anthology of Second World War Poems was designed to make a new case for the importance of the international and Anglophone poetry of World War II, comparable to that of World War I. Sean O'Brien in The Sunday Times called it `a brilliant international reading of Total War' (5/12/04) and TLS said (17/12/04). `Given its aim and ambitions, it would be hard to ask for a better book than Second World War poems'. The anthology was followed by critical work on war poetry: an essay on `Journeys to War: Auden, Isherwood and Empson in China' in Kuhn and Kerr ed., A Century of Travels in China (2007) and another on `Anthologising War' in The Oxford Handbook to British and Irish War Poetry (2007). These studies draw attention to the public role of poetry in coming to terms with the horrors of war, renovating historical memory of conflict, and engaging with its bearing on the present.

Haughton has published on a wide range of other modern, and particularly contemporary poets. This includes essays on: Irish poets using criticism to stake their art in the public arena; Seamus Heaney and Wordsworth; Geoffrey Hill and music; Paul Muldoon and names; and Alice Oswald and rivers. All these studies address poets as readers as much as writers, exploring their attitudes towards language and historical allusion as ways of engaging not only with their own cultural place but the place of poetry within culture.

References to the research

1. *Haughton, The Poetry of Derek Mahon (OUP, 2007, pbk, 2010). Winner of Robert Rhodes prize the best literary study of Irish literature, American Conference of Irish Studies.

2. *Haughton ed., Second World War Poems (Faber and Faber, 2004).

3. Eliot, V. and H. Haughton eds, The Letters of T.S. Eliot: Volume 1, Rev. edn, and The Letters of T.S. Eliot: Volume 2, 1922-25. Both volumes published: Faber and Faber, 2009/Yale University Press, 2011. High-profile editorial project to which Haughton was appointed by the Eliot Estate and Faber and Faber, supported by a 3-year research grant from SET Copyrights/ The Eliot Trust, of £106,143. Wide acclaim in academic reviews.

4. *Haughton ed., Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass: The Centenary Alice, Penguin, 1998, 2003, 2010. R McCrum (The Observer): `the best single essay on Carroll' is `Haughton's introduction to the Penguin Classics...Alice' (19/11/00).

5. Haughton, `The Irish Poet as Critic', in F. Brearton and A. Gillis eds, The Oxford Handbook of Irish Poetry (OUP, 2012), 512-33. Peer-reviewed and published by major university press.

6. Haughton, `Water Worlds: Poets' rivers from Thomas Warton to Alice Oswald', TLS 5747 (24 May, 2013), 13-15. www.the-tls.co.uk/tls/reviews/other_categories/article1263188.ece
* = item supplied by HEI on request. Others listed in REF2 or URL.

Items 1 and 2 entered in RAE2008: 95% of the department's outputs were judged 2* or above.

Details of the impact

Overview of Impact

During a public reading at University of York in June 2013 Seamus Heaney spoke of Haughton as a `custodian' of poetry, as well as `a servant of the art of poetry — and servant of the audience of poetry'. His words recognise the impact of Haughton's career-long commitment to bridging the gap between academic study of poetry and a wider audience in raising the public profile of poets. Haughton's research focuses on poets' uses of the resources of language to re-negotiate and re-define the boundary between the public and personal. In doing so, he has created a tight link between his research and his advocacy for the cultural importance of poetry. The impact of Haughton's research has been felt on local, national and international stages. The beneficiaries include: broad non-academic audiences at literary festivals and in York, publishing houses and their readers, the media, a Paris gallery, the city of Margate and the Department of Culture, Media and Sport.

Corroborating evidence is indicated by # followed by the relevant number of Section 5.


Created a local and regional forum to raise the profile of contemporary poetry

In line with the University and Department's commitment to local cultural life, Haughton has had a significant impact on public audiences in York. The impact of Haughton's research has contributed to raising the profile of contemporary poetry in York, generating intellectual exchange and engagement between major poets and the local public, and providing an exciting literary forum for performance, discussions, and reflection on poetry. As the founding director of Writers at York, he has worked since 2006 to create an established and ongoing venue for and programme of readings by poets. Writers at York readings have typically attracted audiences which include local teachers, school pupils, writers and members of the public more broadly. Since the establishment of the university's York Festival of Ideas in 2011, Haughton has ensured the prominent participation of poets, from those with local reputations to influential international writers, in this high profile venue.

Haughton's critical and interpretative work has helped establish close ties with contemporary poets and therefore bring major British and Irish poets to York to introduce them to the general public. Major poets who have read in the Writers at York include (with year and audience numbers): Lavinia Greenlaw (2009: 85), Simon Armitage (2010: 130), Don Paterson (2010: 105), Andrew Motion (2011: 220), Alice Oswald (2012: 120), Ciaran Carson (2012: 115 and 2013: 88), Justin Quinn (2012), Peter Robinson and Marie MacInnes (2012: 65), John Wilkinson (2013: 70), and Bernard O'Donoghue (2013: 60). The audience for Seamus Heaney (2013), who was hosted jointly by Writers at York and the Festival of Ideas, numbered over 720 people. Feedback on the Heaney reading attests to the value the local community places on having major poets are part of the cultural life of York. One member of the audience relished `the opportunity to hear a world- renowned poet on my doorstep', and another hearing `a great poet presenting his own work in his own way'. Others commented on the reading as `moving and memorable' and noted `Seamus Heaney in York — very special for all age groups in the community'.(#1)

Increased Public Knowledge about Poetry: National and International Literary Festivals

Through participation in literary festivals, Haughton has also worked to extend the impact of his research to public audiences nationally and internationally. Haughton has spoken about his research on Eliot and letters, his work on contemporary poets, and war poetry at festivals in the UK and abroad (including Oxford Literary Festival, 2008; St Andrews, 2009; Little Gidding, 2009; and Galway, 2011). In May 2013, he gave the British Academy Warton lecture on English Poetry at Senate House as part of the British Academy's London Literature Festival. This took the form of a poetry reading by Alice Oswald followed by a lecture by Haughton on Poetry and Rivers, exploring the background to Oswald's representations of rivers in earlier poetry as well as her work. The lecture and reading was attended by a mixed, largely non-academic audience of up to 120 people The lecture has been uploaded to YouTube as well as published in The TLS and received coverage in Chinese on the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences website, which has a non- academic as well as academic readership, attesting to the wide reach of Haughton's contribution to the London Literary Festival. (#2)

Brought Major Literary Texts to Wide Publics

In his editions, all published by non-academic presses (Faber and Penguin), Haughton has successfully presented poets and their poetry to a wide reading public. His editions of Carroll's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass, and Second World War Poems re-animated key monuments of the national literary heritage, enabling readers to re-experience and re-situate their significance and relevance. The public impact of Haughton's editing is evident in his outstanding sales figures. Haughton's Second World War Poems has become a standard popular anthology of the poetry for World War II, selling over 3710 copies. His edition of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass, which includes the most important poetic and fictional texts of Lewis Carroll, has had exceptional worldwide sales of 315,921 copies in paperback, and 64,431 in hardback (with 90,000 in 2010, the year of Tim Burton's film). In addition to the reading public, the publishing houses Faber and Penguin have benefited directly from Haughton's research and promotion of the public role of poetry. (#3)

Influenced the Representation of Poetry by the Media

Haughton's editorial scholarship and critical work has directly shaped how the media positions poetry as a central part of literary heritage of the UK, Ireland, and the USA.

Haughton's edition of T.S. Eliot's letters attracted wide attention in non-academic and popular publications with high visibility and cultural influence in the UK and the USA (including The Daily Telegraph, The Times, The Evening Standard, The Financial Times, Private Eye and The San Francisco Chronicle and The Wall Street Journal). The Telegraph wrote that Haughton's edition gave `admirers of the inspired poet...the full portrait of a man living with the esteem of having written The Waste Land.' In November 2009 the actress Fiona Shaw discussed the letters on the Today Programme on BBC Radio 4, a programme with 7.18 million listeners. In addition, their publication was extensively covered in influential, non-academic journals such as The New Yorker (in a 10-page article by Louis Menard) and The New Republic (in an 8-page article by the leading poetry critic Helen Vendler). The American Jewish Daily Forward drew readers' attention to the relevance of Haughton's edition for contextualizing the poet's troubling anti-Semitism. (#4)

Haughton's The Poetry of Derek Mahon raised the profile of this major, but until recently, relatively neglected Irish poet. Haughton subsequently worked with the media to raise Mahon's public visibility. Based on his personal and archival research, he was invited by the director, Roger Greene, to be interviewed for and take part in a documentary TV film about Mahon's work: Derek Mahon: The Poetry Nonsense, which also included Michael Longley and Seamus Heaney. The film was funded by the Irish Film Board and Arts Council, RTE/Channel 4, premiered at Cuirt Arts Festival, Galway and in the National Library of Ireland, and Synge Theatre, Trinity College Dublin, 2009. It has also played in Kinsale and the National Film School, Dublin. According to the director, in Q & A sessions at these showings, `There were a lot of questions directed at me on researching the documentary and what reference sources were used. [Haughton's] book was cited every time'. (#5)

Worked with Centre for Modern and Contemporary Art, Paris

Haughton's research on poetry and cultural value led to an invitation from Judith Clarke (London College of Fashion and renowned international curator) to contribute to the exhibition Chloé: Attitudes. Clarke has written that `I have read Professor Haughton's work on poetry for many years. He inspired research a few years ago when I attended his wonderful Professorial lecture in York on Poets' letters, and I looked to him early on in the curatorial process as a fundamental collaborator'. Held in the Palais de Tokyo, Centre for Modern and Contemporary Art, Paris, in 2012, the exhibition marked the 60th anniversary of the famous fashion house associated with Karl Lagerfeld. Drawing on new material from the Chloé archives and his research into the poetics of naming, Haughton contributed an essay to the catalogue (published in French and English) and attended the gala opening along with leading figures in the fashion world (press coverage in Vogue and Harper's Bazaar). The exhibition was attended by 35,000 visitors and the catalogue sold 3,000 copies in English and French. Thus Haughton's research on poetry shaped the way the Centre for Modern and Contemporary Art represented fashion history and reached a wider public, including the fashion industry. (#6)

Adviser to Thanet District Council: Listing Historical Building Associated with T.S. Eliot

In his role as editor of Eliot's letters, Haughton advised on the successful campaign to have the Nayland Shelter in Margate, where Eliot drafted Part III of The Waste Land, listed and saved from demolition, helping commemorate Eliot's poetic and cultural legacy in a local civic context . (#7)

Poet-Laureate Consultation

Haughton's status as an established expert on poetry and place in the life of the nation led to his being one of those consulted in December 2008 by the Department of Culture, Media and Sport about the appointment of the first woman Poet Laureate, Carol Anne Duffy. (#8)

Sources to corroborate the impact

  1. i) Writers at York events: www.york.ac.uk/english/news-events/events/writers-at-york/, ii) Audience figures 2008-13, iii) Archived Feedback, Heaney reading, June 2013.
  2. Participation in literary festivals: York Festival of Ideas (2011, 2012 and 2013) and York Festival, T.S. Eliot Society 4th Annual Public Lecture in Little Gidding (2009), the St Andrews' T.S. Eliot Festival (2009), Oxford Literary Festival (2008), and Warton Lecture on `Poetry and Rivers' in the British Academy London Literary Festival (2013), www.youtube.com/watch?v=S5wi4sdPnvE and Chinese Academy of Social Science: www.csstoday.net/xueshuzixun/jishizixun/80730.html.
  3. Sales figures: i) Faber & Faber for Second World War Poems, ii) Penguin for Alice in the Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass.
  4. Eliot letters: non- academic reviews UK and USA press: i) The Times (14/11/2009), ii) The Daily Telegraph (06/11/2009), iii) Evening Standard (05/11/2009), iv) The Guardian (07/11/2009), v) The Scotsman (27/11/2009), vi) The London Review of Books (03/12/2009), vii) The Sunday Times (08/11/2009), viii) The Spectator (11/11/2009), ix) The Financial Times (16/11/2009), x) The Nation (17/09/2011), xi) The New Yorker (19/09/2011), xii) The New Republic (20/04/2010), xiii) New York Times Book Review (30/09/11), xiv) The New York Review of Books (25/10/2012), xv) The Jewish Daily Forward (23/10/2011), xvi) The Weekly Standard (5/12/2011), xvii) San Francisco Chronicle (30/12/11), xviii) The Nation (6/09/11), xix) Private Eye (27/11/2009).
  5. Letter from Director of Derek Mahon: The Poetry Nonsense confirming role of Haughton's The Poetry of Derek Mahon in researching the film and raising Mahon's media profile.
  6. Chloé Exhibition: i) Letter from curator of Chloé exhibition confirming impact of Haughton's research and contribution to exhibition, ii) Chloé Exhibition Touring iii) Attendance figures, iv) Coverage of exhibition and launch: www.harpersbazaar.co.uk/going-out/who-what-where/chloe-attitudes-exhibition-paris-fashion-week-021012#slide-1 and en.vogue.fr/fashion-party/we-were-there/diaporama/the-chloe-attitudes-party-at-the-palais-de-tokyo/9967, v) Chloé Exhibition Catalogue.
  7. Conservation of Margate Shelter: i) E-mail correspondence with Thanet District Council, ii) English Heritage website account of listing of Margate seaside shelter.
  8. Letter from Department for Culture, Media and Sport on Poet Laureate Appointment.