Poetic writing: What keystroke logging and eye tracking can reveal about how professional poets work

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This paper aims to explore the creative writing process of poems. The over-arching research question is how the poets engage in planning and revision activities during the poetic writing, and how these processes relate to the linguistic content and literate properties of the final poems
Expert writing has been characterized as domain specific skill that involves complicated problem-solving processes (Scardamalia & Bereiter, 1991). Expert writers are also described as advanced designers (Maun & Myhill, 2005), and knowledge crafters with abilities to adapt their texts to the audience with less cognitive effort (Kellogg, 2018). The professional creative writing process is however little explored from a cognitive writing perspective (but see Bekius, 2019).
This study wanted to capture the full writing process of a poem. For this purpose two professional poets were recruited. The data collection took part in a lab setting, where the writing processes were collected by keystroke logging, combined with eye-tracking. Each poem was elicited by a prompt at the start of the 60-minute recording session. Both poets were satisfied with their poems.
The final poems were analyzed linguistically and found to be lexically dense and diverse, with a high usage of low frequent words, sometimes neologisms, and very few conjunctions. The literary analyses show how the final poems are constituted of multi-layered nets, constructed through metaphorical and metonymical connections.
The analyses of the writing processes show two dynamic, though different writers. While both spend much of their writing time pausing and revising on a global level, one of them shows a writing pattern consisting of long pauses followed by bursts of text production, the other shows a text production pattern with many immediate revisions, and shorter pauses. The amount of reading differs between the poets, but an extensive global reading of the text is suggested to be a prerequisite for the creation of the dense, metaphorical texts in the poetic genre. In sum, this combination of theoretical and methodological perspectives shows the writing process of two mature, conscious writers who has a global plan for their texts, and who have the domain specific skills to execute the plan.
Translated title of the contributionPoetiskt skrivande: Vad tangentloggning och ögonrörelsemätning kan avslöja om hur professionella poeter arbetar
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 2023-Feb-21
EventWriting Research Across Borders, WRAB: From early literacy learning to writing in professional life - NTNU, Trondheim, Norway
Duration: 2023-Feb-182023-Feb-22
Conference number: VI


ConferenceWriting Research Across Borders, WRAB
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