Amateur Poem As A Subject Of Philological Research


The aim of the study is to substantiate the need for the development of a new branch of literary studies, which would deal with a comprehensive theoretical description of amateurish poem. The author of the study proposes to approach the consideration of amateurish poetic works as unique works, without considering their obvious aesthetic imperfections. The study begins with a review of the existing research tradition and evidence of the relevance of the treatment of specialists in the field of literary history to the consideration of amateurish poem. Literary criticism and sociological methods are used. The philological part of the research is based on a collection of amateur authors made in the 2000s on the territory of Siberia. The author of the study asks a question about boundaries of amateurish poem as a phenomenon, about the principles of attributing text to amateurish poem or to poetry, which is part of fiction. The main part of the work consists of the description of the specific features of amateur poetry revealed in the process of research: the psychological characteristics of the author-amateur and the features of amateur poetic text. Among the first is the attitude of the amateur author to his poetic experiments and motives for writing and publishing his poems. Among the latter are the occasional formation of new tropes and semantic delights generated by the grammatical imperfection of the poem by the amateur author. Particular attention is paid to the visual aspect of printed collections of poems by amateur authors.

Keywords: Amateur poetrynaive poetryRussian literatureRussian poetry


Works of amateurish verbal creativity rarely become the subject of philological research. We will focus on reviewing poems, leaving prose experiments beyond our study.

Basically, sociologists, anthropologists, cultural scientists, psychologists, and historians are interested in amateurish poems. The latter view amateurish poems as a reflection of the public's reaction to the public agenda of a given epoch or to local administrative orders (Kostyakova & Titova, 2018; Akhmetova, 2017; Makhnyryov, 2014; Rykunina, 2015). Sociologists and cultural scientists view amateurish poems as evidence of the speech and thought of the social and cultural groups to which the authors belong (Yugai, 2016; Milyukova, 2006). Among the non-philological works, it is worth noting the original interdisciplinary research (Vaughan-Evans & Trefor, 2016), devoted to the analysis of brain reactions of the subjects, not experienced with the knowledge of poetic tradition, on samples of texts filled with poetic harmony and devoid of it. From the results of the study it becomes clear that man as a biological being is susceptible to poetic harmony, but man as a social being is not always aware of poetic harmony.

The closest to the specifics of amateurish versification is a popular question among experts in the field of fiction, questions 1) about understanding or refraction of the naive, sentimental in the work of recognized poets who are creators or heirs of the romantic tradition (Gaio, 2017; Wolfinger, 2015; Pop, 2013; Sohoham, 1998); 2) about primitivism as a technique in avant-garde poetry and modern performative practices (Amaral, 2017; Maciel, 2017; Davydov, 2004). The results of these studies are important for understanding the specifics of the amateurish poem phenomenon. Romantic and primitive is considered by the creators of poetic art as a way of approaching the sacred beginning. In amateurish poetry, when viewed from the side of it, simplification is a way of peculiar profanation of art, when viewed from the point of view of the amateur authors themselves, a method of democratizing poetry. Thus, a few conclusions of the named researchers in the opposite formulation apply to amateurish poem. For example, comparing the artistic image and the poetic description of landscapes, Andrade (2016) brings the postmodernist poet and South American artist who worships an idol together through the idea that primitivism and archaic structures in art become the source of modernization. The amateur poet who works outside of art is inclined to regard archaic structures as a way of realizing conservative creative intentions.

In addition, a significant group of studies consists of those that implement a statistical approach to the analysis of works of amateurish poem (Bonch-Osmolovskaya & Orekhov, 2014; Orekhov, 2013).

Among the studies close to ours, we found several works devoted to the work of individual amateur authors (Knyazev, 2015; Kurochkina, 2014; Maroshi, 2010; Wise, 2008).

The need for philological research of amateurish poem is due to several reasons.

1. In the modern world, thanks to the development of technology, education and the general movement towards the realization of a democratic organization as a social value, the number of authors who create and publish poetic texts in various ways has increased. Amateurish poem is a large-scale social phenomenon.

2. Amateurish poems, the existence of which was recognized by the professional literary environment several centuries ago, still do not have a comprehensive academic description.

Today we must admit the presence of several unstable terms that call it. In this regard, there is a widespread experience of using the term “naive” in quotes, and each researcher is faced with the need to choose the term from the whole mass each time: “naive”, “amateur”, “amateur”, “amateurish”, “household”, “imitative” , “primitive” , “pseudo-artistic” poetry, “graphomania”,“sub-literature”... In one of our works, we proposed the combination “written folk (poetic) creativity” (Gileva, 2018) as a neutral term for this phenomenon.

In philological tradition, amateurish poems are beyond the scope of fiction (systematically not considered by philologists as an original phenomenon), but at the same time, in the framework of the literary process and in public comments, expert philologists are interpreted as “low-quality” fiction. This contradiction suggests that amateurish poems do not have a definite status in the general typology of verbal creativity, within the framework of which folklore (oral folk art) and fiction are traditionally distinguished. In our opinion, amateurish poem does not belong to any of the above types of verbal creativity, but it is a third complex phenomenon that has its own core but has no clear boundaries with either folklore or fiction.

3. Amateurish poetry is a special - lower - level of the literary process. Its role in the general literary process remains to be seen. Amateur authors unite in their own, as if “professional” communities, organize their publishing houses, festivals and smaller events, which are usually ignored by the professional literary community and the general consumer of literary products. Deprived of a third-party consumer of their creative products, amateur authors, being a large community, themselves make up their audience. Of interest is the provincial literary process, where there are many spatial-belt points of convergence between professional and amateurish poetry.

4. Amateurish poetry manifests a sphere of cultural and social life.

Problem Statement

When talking about amateurish poem, inevitably a question arises about the boundaries of the phenomenon, the principles of classifying the text as amateurish poems (which, according to our classification, is part of written folk art) or poetry, which is part of fiction. The classical literary tradition has drawn and continues to draw attention only to the best examples that make up the history of world literature. The postmodernist tradition laid down among others by the thesis of Barth (1994) about the “death of the author” actually equalizes the author-writer and author-amateur because he refuses the work of the first in basic originality, which in the final analysis is the basic factor separating fiction and amateurish written folk art. Recognition of the “death of the author” as a principled position in relation to literary research was shaken by the idea of the subject of literary studies, but did not change the fundamental position. At the same time, literary criticism does not have generally recognized methods and procedures for determining the artistic value of a work; literary critics and editors, who face practical tasks, are concerned about this issue.

Research Questions

Today it is necessary to identify the specific features of amateurish poems, to realize the results and outline the prospects for its research, to formulate and present comprehensively the achievements and perspectives of a philological analysis of the works of amateurish poems.

Purpose of the Study

The purpose of the work is the substantiation of the need for the development of a new branch of literary criticism, which would deal with a comprehensive theoretical description of amateurish poem.

Research Methods

To achieve our goal and resolve the questions posed, it is necessary to use both literary (descriptive, structuralist and psychological) and sociological methods (biographical interview, observation included).

Included observation was participation from 2001 to 2018. in the life of professional and amateurish literary communities of Novosibirsk and participation in the same years in the annual Poetic marathon “Breath of the 3rd Millennium”, which has been held since 2001 in Novosibirsk. Organized by an amateur poet and professional journalist, he unites around a hundred amateur poets of the city and its environs.

The collection of two hundred printed collections of amateurish poems published in Siberia has become the material for the philological part of our research. Authors who have fallen into our field of vision have been engaged in versification for more than 10 years, and for more than 10 years, judging by their collections and poems, the poetics of each work remains almost unchanged. The youngest of the authors reviewed was born in 1971, the oldest in 1930.


The review of the research tradition given by us in the introduction gives us the foundation for the construction of our research.

The conclusions made by Vaughan-Evans & Trefor (2016) together with colleagues are especially important to consider when talking about amateurish poem, so they bring us closer to the realization of the generalized portrait of the author of amateur poem. Often this is a person who is fully perceiving, but not fully aware of the principles and the very presence of poetic harmony in a poetic text. Thus, it is possible to explain the phenomenon of an amateur author who is familiar with a high intellectual or artistic tradition, or even immersed in it, and at the same time being the creator of poetic works, largely devoid of poetic harmony, and sincerely manifesting a kind of “blindness” to the artistic quality of his works. By the way, when analyzing biographical interviews and collections of amateurish poetry, we were unable to identify either the specific social features of the amateur author or the correlation of the artistic level of the text with any social characteristics.

However, biographical interviews, nevertheless, helped us to find several psychological traits that, perhaps, can bring us closer to understanding the features of the author-amateur.

Amateur authors, influenced by cultural tradition, tend to endow their poems with sacred meaning and are jealous of the poet's own status. The self-name and the name “poet” among professional authors are used, according to our observations, much less often than among amateur authors.

The most common concept of the poet among the amateur authors is the concept of a “prophet-poet”, a socially significant subject burdened with the need to respond to negative social manifestations, to preach the principles of a better life, record events with the help of poems that should be remembered society or family. The goal of such activity is the confrontation of spiritual entropy. Often the moment of the beginning of versification relates to the termination by the authors of an active professional activity, the summing up of vital results, and also a crucial moment in life is called a catalyst for the versification.

Within the framework of this concept, the final collections of poems by amateur authors are of importance. Outwardly, they are very diverse, but a tendency is noticeable: collections are often found, the volume of which is characteristic of posthumous collections of classics of poetry, and now and then there are oval photographs on a plant-sky background. The titles of collections in our collection most often include the word “soul”: “State of the Soul”, “Bells of the Soul”, “Sails of the Soul”, etc. Inside the books there are photographs of the authors themselves and their relatives and friends, sometimes with names. Often the authors emphasize the veracity of the texts, their detailed correspondence to reality, not the generalized, but the specific meaning of the text. Lyrical characters are close to the authors. Here is a brief summary to V. Vasilyeva's collection “Daughter of Siberian Land”: “The author of the publication is a direct participant in all the events described in the book”.

Compared with poetry, which is part of fiction, amateurish poems are focused on the transfer of specific facts, situational, their reading is assumed in connection with the knowledge and relevance of the fact that gave rise to them reality.

From the foregoing the key meaning of this kind of creative activity is existential. And this is the main cultural value of these works. Amateurish experiments of versification do not participate in the development of poetic language or in the formation of reality; amateur authors have a different primary task - fixation, memorization and translation of life. Almost always, this task is realized against the background of the automemoration of the amateur author through a poetic book, the purpose of which is to overcome one’s own mortality, preserving the personal principle. Books by amateur authors are sometimes a kind of poetic general confession, collected from texts of poetry written over several decades.

The material we collected turned out to be extremely diverse in genres and artistic level, but similar in several features. Amateurish poems are compiled using stereotypical vocabulary, rhythm, figurativeness, poetry of amateurish poetry is secondary, often the works are a kind of replica of a classic poetry sample or a simplified copy of a replica. In this aspect, amateurish poetry becomes an endless field for statistical research. Another approach is closer to us. In the work of Lord (2018), devoted to the description of the epic tradition in Yugoslavia in the 30-50s. In the twentieth century, we found an idea that is consonant with ours: “Execution is unique, it is not reproduction, but creativity, therefore it can have only one author”. Thus, if two amateur authors cannot create identical texts, each of them can be recognized as a unique author with all the secondary nature of his artistic language. And then there is the unsolved problem of identifying and fixing a unique author, which manifests itself at the level of the structure of the text.

The grammatical and syntactic imperfection of the amateurish text creates, perhaps, not intended by the author, but expressive semantic structures. “I was born in Siberia, / I am familiar with Siberia / Since those Cossack times, / That came with Ermak”.

As you can see, the author is counting his own history from the XVI century. Below, he writes: “I will go to the depths / Trans-Valleys / And I will whisper to the Lord: / - Let everything be yours”. The lord, with whom the lyrical hero Yu. Karasev will meet after death, according to the syntactic organization of the text, is not owning Siberia and less than Siberia. Moreover, the lyrical hero seems to bequeath to Vladyka what he himself possessed during his lifetime. So, the lyrical hero turns out to be more powerful and older than the Vladyka.

If one considers the grammatical and syntactic imperfection of amateurish poems as their natural feature, then these grammatical points of bifurcation in coarse and clumsy fragments draw attention to themselves by extreme emotionality and the creation of an occasional trail. The author’s random and systemic language flaws create a specific organization of the artistic world, simulating a kind of surrealistic being in the poetic text.


In this regard, it is thought that it is useful to consider the texts of amateurish poems outside the categories of literary aesthetics and, perhaps, even without reference to the history of fiction. It is this fact that makes us think about the need to identify within the framework of literary studies a specific direction, which is busy studying such texts. To read them, it is necessary to develop new principles and procedures of literary analysis.

Similarly, linguistics began with the study of the language system and only then turned to speech. This shows the overall dynamics of humanitarian thought from the Renaissance to the present day, its original symbol can be seen in Raphael’s Sistine Madonna, in the form of Madonna, as if descending from heaven to earth and thus elevating it and giving meaning to its existence.


This work was supported by the Novosibirsk State Technical University (Project C-14, 2018).


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28 December 2019

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Gileva*, E. (2019). Amateur Poem As A Subject Of Philological Research. In D. Karim-Sultanovich Bataev, S. Aidievich Gapurov, A. Dogievich Osmaev, V. Khumaidovich Akaev, L. Musaevna Idigova, M. Rukmanovich Ovhadov, A. Ruslanovich Salgiriev, & M. Muslamovna Betilmerzaeva (Eds.), Social and Cultural Transformations in the Context of Modern Globalism, vol 76. European Proceedings of Social and Behavioural Sciences (pp. 1052-1058). Future Academy.