Spot the difference: Writing for broadcast and writing poetry

Staff Reporter

The clean, powerful language found in broadcast journalism can also be found in poetry.

Ryerson professor, Marsha Barber discussed the similarities between writing poetry and writing for broadcast, as she talked about her first poetry book.

“I do think sometimes the things we talk about in broadcast journalism are applicable when it comes to poetry,” said Barber, Teaching Chair for the Faculty of Communication and Design at Ryerson University. “When we talk about clear, concise, and accessible language in broadcast writing, this has parallels with some forms of poetry.”

Barber, who is also a professor at the Ryerson School of Journalism, said that she used very direct language throughout her book because she wanted direct communication with her audience.

“Because of my background in journalism, I used very clear language,” she said. “In a lot of broadcast writing, you leave out unnecessary words, similar to poetry.  The use of incomplete sentences and the rhythm of good broadcast writing also parallel this.”

Barber talked about the need to appeal to the heart not just the head when writing poetry.  “I needed to see the images in my head when I was writing,” she said. “I have to read poems out loud and hear the words.”

Barber noted that, as well, the layout of a poem can resemble the layout of a broadcast copy.

“I remember a beautiful script after the death of Diana and looking at the broadcast writing on the page; it was set out like a poem.”

Barber was inspired to write her first poetry book after the death of her father, last year. The book begins with the suicide of someone else’s father, and ends with the death of her own.

“I wrote about the death of my father in the introduction which sets it up to be a personal book of poetry,” she said. “I’d written a memoir before which, for me, perhaps unlocked the door to writing poetry.”

The poems in her book cover a wide range of subjects including family, aging, and events in the world. The book is divided into three parts: ‘Remembrance’, ‘Graveyard In Summer’, and ‘Watching My Father Rest.’

Barber decided to write a poetry book instead of a memoir because she has always been drawn to the genre.

“In journalism, I write because I want to communicate and I want to tell stories. At the heart of it, that’s what I also do in poetry,” she said. “This is just another way of looking at the world.”

Her book, What Is The Sound of Someone Unravelling, will be available from Ottawa’s Borealis Press by the end of September.

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