UTR: Uncollected at Time of Recording

UTR is the designation given those works included in the SHCDA that were uncollected in a single-author poetry collection (or prose work) at the time of their recording.

On the Track File, the designation UTR appears directly below the genre of the work recorded, and above the name of the performer. For example:

PLEASE bear in mind:
It is often the case that a work uncollected at the time of recording is subsequently published in a single-author collection. It is entirely possible, therefore, that the Track File for the recorded work has both the UTR designation and at the same time provides secondary bibliographic information for where the work was later published. For example:

Why bother applying the UTR designation?

  1. As a result of technological changes, important research resources are being lost. A large number of writers now compose solely on PCs and laptops. In many cases, hard-copies of early drafts simply no longer exist. However, as evidenced by examples in the SHCDA, the recorded performances of works ‘uncollected at time of recording’ can be a significant research resource, enabling new ways of investigating a writer’s compositional processes and the history of specific works.
    For example, when Andrew Motion (then Poet Laureate) read at Queen’s in November 2007, he performed eight poems, all of which were from a manuscript intended for publication. (See: SR.PUB.Motion) However, only two of the eight poems were included in Motion’s next collection, The Cinder Path (Faber & Faber, 2009). It is worth noting that the two poems that were included changed considerably from the time they were performed at Queen’s to the time they were collected. A researcher might be interested in listening not only to the uncollected versions of these two poems but also to the six excluded poems, and in discovering the reasons for their exclusion.

  2. Many writers have been recorded for the SHCDA at the beginning of their literary careers – that is, prior to them producing a single-author poetry collection or prose work. The UTR recordings can be a useful resource for researchers, providing a means of noting which works were kept or discarded for inclusion in debut publications. It might be that these early recordings are a treasure trove of unpublished ‘juvenilia’, or they might provide instances of the first public outings of a writer’s more ‘successful’, published works.

  3. Perhaps most significantly, in terms of Performance Studies, the designation UTR has interesting implications with regard to appreciating both individual performance practices and our response to poetry readings. The following are examples of questions arising from issues surrounding performances of collected/uncollected works.

Does a reader tend to perform new, uncollected work, or does he or she favour those already published in collections?

Examples stored in the SHCDA of poets who regularly read uncollected poems include Leontia Flynn, Andrew Motion (as mentioned above) Medbh McGuckian, Kei Miller, Sinead Morrissey and Damian Smyth – to name but a handful.

What does it say of a writer who reads predominantly new work in public? Is performing work that is uncollected at time of recording an editing process of some sort? Is it a chance to ‘test-drive’ a poem on both the audience and on the poet’s own ear? Is there a sense that the poet needs to move on from old work? Or is reading new, uncollected work simply a means of pre-publication publicity?

But If a writer regularly performs work that is already collected, does this inform how we respond to the reading? Is there a sense that collected work is already sanctioned, or made somehow legitimate by its inclusion in a collection? Does this then bestow a sense of legitimacy on the performance itself?

And is there a process of ‘self-canonization’ involved in performing collected work, especially if particular collected works are performed regularly from one performance to the next? It might be of interest, for example, to look at the reading practice of certain poets represented in the SHCDA, such as Ciaran Carson and Paul Muldoon. Do these poets perform regular sets of poems, much like musicians might performs ‘sets’ of songs? If so, is this conditioned by the sheer number of readings they perform? Or does building a ‘set’ of tried-and-tested poems reflect a writer’s interest in the performative qualities of poetry? That is to say, do these poets know, and are they at all concerned with, what works best in performance? Or is there something much simpler going on? By performing work in the collections (collections that are likely to be available to buy at the reading), is the reader simply trying to increase sales?

In relation to the collection vs. the ‘un-collection’ of poetry, we might ask questions about the purpose of book launches – events that, in effect, celebrate the demise of the UTR status. The role of the introduction at these events is especially interesting inasmuch as it regularly seeks to confer legitimacy on both the writer and the publication itself. But why is it that the collected is regularly valued over the uncollected? What does it mean to “be published”? As Performance Poetry events and digital broadcasts of poetry gain in popularity is the legitimization that publication seems to confer, both on a writer and on texts, of less importance than it used to be?

Indeed, we might ask if the SHCDA’s use of the UTR designation pre-supposes that the aim of all writers is to have the performed work published. While the tag is useful for indicating that a work isn’t collected in a single-author publication, it might be the case that a work is composed with the sole aim of it being performed and never ‘printed’.

Or perhaps a performance version of a work co-exists alongside a quite different printed version. If so, what are the qualities that distinguish one version from the other? And why would it be that two quite different versions of one poem exist?

But if the designation UTR does have interesting implications for users of the SHCDA, please remember …

The designation UTR does not mean that a performed work has not been published somewhere other than a single-author collection or prose work. The designation is not, therefore, the definitive guide to a work’s publication history. The work might, for example, have been published in a journal or an anthology.

When establishing the SHCDA, it was intended to try and provide bibliographic information for a performed work’s appearance in all types of publications. It quickly became apparent, however, that given the available resources it would be impossible to provide this level of publishing history. The decision was made, therefore, to limit bibliographic information to single-author works.

However, there is a notable exception to this ‘rule’. When the recorded event is the launch of an anthology or journal (i.e. not a single-author collection) it seems spurious not to include the secondary bibliographic information in such instances. (Also note: The UTR designation will still be applied to works in that anthology that remain uncollected in single-author collections or prose works at the time of the recording.)