Speaking to the Masses – Hybrid Poetics and Marshall McLuhan’s “Newspaper Landscape”

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Morrisy, Julie
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This essay points to structural and formal techniques in the hybrid poetries of current female North American poets writing in the book-length form. The author suggests that in their hybrid poetries, M. NourbeSe Philip, Claudia Rankine and C.D. Wright engage with Marshall McLuhan’s 1954 concept of the “newspaper landscape”. The author further argues that through such formal invention, these poets create identification points in their respective works for both traditional poetry readers and non-specialised readers. As such, the above poets encourage a hybrid audience for their hybrid poetries. Using theories by rhetoricians Kenneth Burke, and Jeffrey Walker in relation to the hybrid poetries of the above poets, this paper highlights the ability of language to direct our attention to different worldviews and the role of language in impacting audience. The author argues that the “newspaper landscape”, as seen in poetries of NourbeSe Philip, Rankine and Wright discussed herein, broadens the traditional audiences for poetry by appealing to both specialised and non-specialised readers. In making this claim, the author outlines the formal and structural elements of contemporary hybrid poetries and the ways in which such elements culminate in broader audiences and more accessible poetries. Further, and consequentially, the paper concludes by making a link between the hybrid techniques of the newspaper landscape and possible impact in the public sphere that these hybrid poetries may encourage. Author keywords: Poetics, exegesis and narrative; Newspapers; Rhetoric & society; McLuhan, Marshall, 1911-1980