Warwick University is running a new international writing prize for an “excellent and substantial piece of writing in the English language, in any genre or form”. I want to keep in mind a statement by Professor David Morley, director of the prize, as he situates his interest in writing not in terms of genre or discipline, but in terms of the work writing does:

How does writing evolve? Where is its moving edge? Is all writing – at its best – a type of creative writing? These are questions I ask myself all the time as a poet and as professor of creative writing at Warwick. When I was a young research scientist I found myself facing the same issues because I often reached a zone where the current knowledge simply tapered to nothing. When scientists reach this point, this moving edge of knowledge, they surf forwards by a combination of previous knowledge, guesswork, and intuition. They become poets; they write – and they imagine – themselves into presence. They create possibility.

I always regarded science at this level as a form of creative writing. The physicist Niels Bohr observed, ‘When it comes to atoms, language can be used only as in poetry. The poet, too, is not nearly so concerned with describing facts as with creative images‘. The best writing creates possibility. My point is that, as with a poem or a paradigm, knowledge formation has a moving edge, a place where ‘not knowing’ is almost as important as knowing. If we accept that writing makes you think, and that the formation of knowledge depends partly on the complex and often playful process of writing, then what role does the process of writing play on that very edge of ‘not knowing’ and knowing: a place of creativity, energy and adventure.”

I’m sure I’ll come back to his statement in the coming weeks as I get to grips with the reading list for my Art Writing MA. It’s already sneaking into the intro of The State of Art Criticism (eds James Elkins & Michael Newman) which I was reading at the bus stop with a cardigan and a blunt pencil in my hand yesterday.