The Poetics of Academic Writing

I recently facilitated a workshop on academic writing for a group of trainee psychotherapeutic counsellors. I saw it as part of the mission I have given myself to persuade people that academic writing need not be dull, un-engaging, complicated, obscure. Indeed, it needs to be the opposite to this, since, as with all writing, what value does it have if it does not communicate?

We did an exercise in essay writing and I had chosen the title ‘Explore the place of poetry in academic writing’, mainly because I had a number of resources readily available to take in with me. We started with a few bursts of ‘free writing’. I suggest this as a beginning point for any writing task as it frees up the writing hand and creative part of the brain, as well as uncovers (and gives value to) what we already know.

My free writing once again emphasised the similarities in my mind between poetry and academic writing. Both: intend to communicate; are interested in precise and specific language; are about discovery, revealing something. Both have something of the ‘dark arts’ about them. Poetry with its connection to charms and prayers. Academic writing with its connection to the sharpened knives of peer review, opinion and debate.

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