The Creative Writing & Research Interviews: Jen Webb (part 3)

The Creative Writing & Research Interviews are a series of interviews with writer-researchers about the field and their own work.

Niyousha writes: Dr. Jen webb is Distinguished Professor, Creative Practice, at the University of Canberra. Her research focuses on the politics and social location of art, and on the process and practice of creative writing. She is also the author of the Creative Writing Studies publication, Researching Creative Writing.

This is the last part of this interview, the first part was posted here and the second here.

So, Jen, what are you working on now?

First, what is becoming a very long slow project that focuses on the ancient myths, especially Ovid’s versions of those tales, and rewriting them as short fictions, poems, essay-type works, artist books, academic work on the role of myth in the contemporary world, and on collaborating with the dead.

Second, a remarkably joyful and productive prose poetry project, which involves about 17 of us across Australia and the UK writing prose poems and bouncing off each other; and publishing sequences or chapbooks of prose poems; and finding ways to read prose poetry as poetry; and writing research papers on (a) prose poetry and (b) creative collaborations.

There are collections of prose poems, and a planned book on this mode of writing, in train.

Third, a major project funded by the Australia Research Council to investigate creative excellence, which involves a whole lot of field work, interviewing poets; and then the analysis of almost a million words from
those poets.

This is ongoing, and is a collaborative project with 4 colleagues.

Fourth, a major project funded by the Australia Research Council to investigate career outcomes for graduates of creative degrees, focusing on Shanghai and Melbourne. This is about 6 months in, and I hope is going to produce rich and useful material.

It is also helping me build up a substantial bank of photographs, and I’ll turn those into an artist book or two with poems and snippets of prose.

Can you leave us with the best piece of research advice anyone has ever given you?

Pierre Bourdieu, of course, gave the best advice ever: let the data show you what’s going on – don’t start with the theory and force the data in to it.

And today at a conference my colleague Ross Gibson added to that, explaining current neurological evidence about learning which notes that we need to start with practice, with the material world.

As we manipulate the material world (writing stories; digging gardens; conducting dissections; knitting garments – whatever) our brains will lay down the pathways necessary for the conceptual knowledge and skills to emerge.

Start with practice; start with the world of things; let that direct you into the abstractions of theory and knowledge.

This is the last segment in the interview with Jen Webb.

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About Anthony Haynes

Director, Frontinus Ltd Communications Associate, FJWilson Talent Services

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