Inspiring launch for the Poetry And… autumn series

Thursday evening saw the launch of the Poetry And… autumn series, chaired by Dr Ruth Padel, Poetry Fellow at King’s. The talks aims to explore how poetry connects with daily life, by linking the art form to a different concept each week. Featuring a combination of poetry readings and discussions, the lectures offer insight from eminent poets and academics into how poetry relates to the world.

The series commenced with Poetry and History, examining different writers’ attitudes to historical change as well as analysing the effect certain poets had on the course of events. James Brooks, whose debut poetry collection Sins of the Leopard was shortlisted for the Dylan Thomas Prize, read a selection of his own work, and discussed his own poetic exploration of time. He presented the idea of history as ‘recrudescent’ – a phrase used by Chinua Achebe in his review of Conrad’s Heart of Darkness. Events have a habit of repeating themselves, and history can therefore be a poetic device for conveying familiar sentiments in unfamiliar locations. His poetry manages to encompass Roman banquets, the Gunpowder Plot, Saint Bede; as well as the likes of Joey Barton. For Brooks, it is important to remember that what remains through time is only a fragment of what once was; the vast majority of us end up voiceless. Permeating through the poems he read was a search for identity: relating the individual to the nation’s history.

The second guest speaker was Roy Foster, Professor of Irish History at Oxford, and author of the much-acclaimed biography of William Butler Yeats. Foster likewise spoke on the relationship between poetry and history, offering Yeats as an example of a figure influential in both literary and political matters. Many of his poems were focused on history, both in an attempt to change Ireland’s future, and in an exploration of its past. According to Foster, Yeats regarded political achievement and violence as tragically intertwined, after witnessing much death in the name of social change.

The weekly talks continue this Thursday, with the topic Poetry and Identity. The event is free for both students and members of the public, and tickets can be reserved online.