Tuesday 26 June, 2018: Contemporary Lyric Symposium — 9am – 5pm, at MERL

The University of Reading’s Department of English Literature, the Oxford Brookes Poetry Centre, and the International Poetry Studies Institute, University of Canberra, invite you to:

Contemporary Lyric

Absent Presences, the Secret & the Unsayable

A participatory symposium for practitioners and interested parties

When: Tuesday 26 June 2018, 9:30 am-5 pm (registration from 9.00-30) including a poetry reading

Venue: The Museum of English Rural Life, University of Reading, Reading, Berkshire

The event is free but places are limited. To confirm attendance, please e-mail: p.robinson@reading.ac.uk 


9–9.30am: Registration and coffee

9.30–11: Present absences & absent presences (chair: Steven Matthews; panelists Conor Carville, Paul Hetherington, Lesley Saunders)

In his ‘Preface to Lyrical Ballads’ Wordsworth suggested that poets were particularly susceptible to the presence of things absent, which might then entail their capacity for creative detachment and absence from present circumstances too. In this session we will explore such paradoxes at the heart of lyric poetry’s powers and predicaments.

11–12.30: Keeping a secret by saying you’ve got one (chair: Niall Munro; panelists Paul Munden, Jack Thacker, Jen Webb)

Speculating about Shakespeare’s tactics in trying to make Hamlet work on stage, William Empson suggested that the thing was for the main character to keep a secret by saying he’s got one. Is this not exactly what modern and contemporary lyric poets have done to invite a sustained and returning attention to their work?

12.30-1: Lunch

1–2.30: Ambiguous, ambivalent, and open utterance  (chair: Conor Carville; panelists: Susie Campbell, Kate Coles, Sarah Hesketh)

Though the last century of Anglophone poetry in all its varieties has, for the most part, not had to survive under the kinds of oppressive regime that would require a political verse written in code, it has nevertheless tended to be oblique in utterance and cryptically significant. In this session we will look at the how and why of such seemingly ubiquitous strategies, and at reasons for counter-trends to write ‘in clear’.

2.30–4: Showing the Unsayable (chair: Steven Matthews; panelists: Cassandra Atherton, Isabel Galleymore, Natalie Pollard)

‘Show don’t tell’, as they say in creative writing classes, but does that mean we should show what we would otherwise be able to tell, but think it’s a better poetic strategy not to do so, or are we to show, or try to show, what we can’t otherwise put into words? Such a question goes to the heart of issues concerning poetry’s contribution to a language and its cultures.

4-5: Refreshment and Poetry Reading

Claire Dyer hosts with readings from visiting poets

The contributors include:

Cassandra Atherton (writer, academic and critic, IPSI)
Conor Carville (poet and academic, University of Reading)
Susie Campbell
Kate Coles
Claire Dyer (poet and novelist, convenor of the Poets’ Café, Reading)
Isabel Galleymore (poet and academic, University of Birmingham)
Sarah Hesketh
Paul Hetherington (poet, editor and Head of the International Poetry Studies Institute (IPSI) at the University of Canberra)
Steven Matthews (poet and academic, University of Reading)
Paul Munden (Director of NAWE, the National Association of Writers in Education and poet, IPSI
Niall Munro (Director, Oxford Brookes Poetry Centre)
Natalie Pollard (literary critic and academic, University of Exeter)
Lesley Saunders (poet and classicist)
Jack Thacker (poet and research student, University of Bristol)
Jen Webb (poet, Distinguished Professor and Director, Creative and Cultural Research, University of Canberra and IPSI)