Claire Watt, St Edmund's

Degree: PhD
Course: English
Supervisor: Dr Michael Hrebeniak
Dissertation Title:

From Page to Stage to Screen: US Poets on Film, 1975-1985

Biographical Information

I grew up on the Isle of Wight and studied my undergraduate degree in English at the University of Oxford, after which I worked in copywriting before returning to academia. I have a Master’s degree in English Literature from University College London and a Master’s degree in Creative Writing from the University of Kent in Paris. As a poet, filmmaker and a visual artist, I find that my creative work complements my academic work.

My PhD research focuses on poetry and film in New York City in the 1970s and 1980s, specifically poets who made their own films and the process of adaptation. My thesis argues that a specific subgenre of ‘poetry films’ emerged in the US during the period 1975-1985. Developing alongside the first music videos from 1975 and utilising contemporary filmic techniques, I argue that these poetry films form a distinct grouping which distinguishes them from previous poetry films and video poems. 

I have co-organised several graduate conferences and I am currently the co-convenor of the Graduate Drama and Performance Seminar and one of the organisers of the 20th Century and Contemporary Graduate Seminar. I am also the organiser of the student arm of the 2023 Cambridge Festival, through which I am partnering with local Cambridge Arts venues. I am a keen poetry editor and I have previously assisted in editing and peer reviewing journals, including Le Menteur and Plath Profiles. I have recently returned to Cambridge after a one year fellowship with Dr. Franca Bellarsi at the Université Libre de Bruxelles, supported by the Fondation Weinar-Anspach, through which I gained the International Certificate in Doctoral Training. I also work in public engagement and I have completed the Cambridge University Engaged Researcher training.

I am an advocate for increased access in higher education and I have previously worked at Project Rousseau, a charity helping underserved New York City high school students attend university, and in London prisons teaching public speaking. My doctoral research has kindly been supported by the Fondation Weinar-Anspach, St Edmund’s College Santander Fund, The Richard Stapley Trust and Funds for Women Graduates.

Research Interests

Modern and contemporary poetry, the New York School, the Beat Generation, US poetry, poetry and film, rap and hip hop, poetry films, adaptation studies, performance poetry, poetry and music, music videos, ecopoetry, poetry and protest, solarpunk, performance studies.

Specific authors: Allen Ginsberg, Anne Waldman, Ntozake Shange, Bob Holman, Nikki Giovanni, Alice Notley, Ted Berrigan, William S. Burroughs, Amiri Baraka, Sylvia Plath, Frank O’Hara, Ron Padgett, Bob Dylan, Claudia Rankine, Arianna Reines.

Selected Publications

Conferences and Presentations:

  • “While she whispered a song along the keyboard’: Sampling in the New York School’ , Cambridge University Graduate Symposium, Cambridge University, Cambridge (November 2021).
  • ‘‘Feel good. Feel better. Move forward. Let it go’: Claudia Rankine’s Citizen as Monument’, NeMLA 2022, NeMLA, Baltimore (March 2022).
  • ‘Questioning The Message: Hip Hop's First Taste of Institutions’, PANTHEON: Hip-Hop’s Global Pathways to Cultural “Legitimacy”, 4th Meeting of the European Hiphop Studies Network, Paris and Online (January 2022.)
  • 'Hip Hop and US Poetry as Forms of Protest: An Introduction', The Agora Lecture Series 2022, University of Cambridge, Cambridge (June 2022).
  • 'The Beats as Precursors to Solarpunk', Solarpunk Conference 2023: From Imagination to Action, Annual Solarpunk Conference, Online (June 2023).

Academic Publications:

Creative Publications:

  • My poems have been published in Tears in the Fence, Yes Ma’am, The Menteur and CatheXis Northwest Press, amongst other magazines, and my writing has been showcased in two mixed media art exhibitions, ‘Personal Progress’, in Urban Arts Gallery, Utah (March - April 2019), and ‘Art on the Trails’ at Beal’s Preserve, Massachusetts (June - September 2019), as well as at the Old Red Lion Theatre, London (August 2023).