"Multiple Words" is a research into the possibilities of performance poetry, and the layering of image sound and meaning therein. Performance poetry has gone through quite a raise in popularity within the Dutch linguistic region for the last ten years, and seems to offer a valid alternative to the traditional poetry reading. Yet, not only writers perform their own texts. With the blurring of art forms, many actors and other artists do write themself. However, literary critics seem to avoid reviewing them, sticking instead to the traditional reading. This appears to be because they lack the tools to analyse and reflect on performance poetry, which seems to need an alternative rulebook when compared to criticizing written poetry. Whenever a critic does try his hand at analysing a poetry performance, he almost invariably does so with the use of his knowledge of written poetry, a knowledge that only covers half of the performance, if not less. Still, international research into the genre does exsist, and tries to approach performance poetry both theoretically and analytically. Since the Beat poets, who performed in galleries and connected strongly to the happening, performance poetry has taken up residence on the crossroads between literature, theatre, fine arts and music. It is in each of these art forms that valuable tools of analysis and reference can be found. However, like every crossover they are works that are often relegated to a single world, and thus they are read in one particular way within that particular context by that particular audience. Thus, they are (partly) almost visible to one world, often entirely invisible to another. These are works that are truly hybrid, and must be seen and read not as two seperate acts but multiple ones.

This research aims to uncover - starting from within the arts - the different layers one specific textperformance contains and connect these layers to different theories and paradigms within contemporary practice. As such, this research wants to contribute to the existing (inter)national research and reflect upon the way performance poetry relates to the contemporary theatre practice. By simultaneously developing a relevant performance and creating a strong theoretical background while doing so, this research hopes to shed some light upon the crossroads performance poetry occupies, the different layers out of which one sinlge performance is built and the way these layers relate to specific art fields.


  • Kris Cuppens (project leader, LUCA)
  • Geert Kestens (KU Leuven/LUCA)

Research unit: Music & Drama