In this innovative series of public lectures at Newcastle University leading contemporary poets speak about the craft and practice of poetry to audiences drawn from both the city and the university. The lectures are then published in book form by Bloodaxe, giving readers everywhere the opportunity to learn what the poets themselves think about their own subject.
Jane Hirshfield examines the roles of hiddenness, uncertainty and surprise as they appear in poetry and other works of literature, in the life and psyche of the writer, and in the broader life of the culture as a whole.
Poetry and Hiddenness: Thoreau’s Hound: Explorations of hiddenness go back to the beginning of literature. There is no paradise, no place of true completion, that does not include within its walls the unknown. In this lecture, Hirshfield explores the centrality and necessity of hiddenness in our lives, and elucidates both the uses of hiddenness and hidden meanings in the work of writers ranging from Homer to Cavafy, from Auden to Jack Gilbert.
Poetry and Uncertainty: To be human is to be unsure, and if the purpose of poetry is to deepen the humanness in us, poetry will be unsure as well. This lecture illuminates the ways uncertainty – in poems, and in life – allows both broadened feeling and enlarged knowledge. Translations are central to this talk, which includes poems by Izumi Shikibu, Anna Swir, Fernando Pessoa and Paul Celan.
Poetry and the Constellation of Surprise: Poems preserve their inaugural newness in part because they are like the emotions – not object, but experience, event. Poems that last are those that do not lose the power to astonish. This lecture examines surprise as a central, unrecognised fulcrum of great poems. Three poems are then looked at in detail by Hirshfield as test-cases: ‘Ithaka’ by C.P. Cavafy, ‘Oysters’ by Seamus Heaney and ‘Nothing Gold Can Stay’ by Robert Frost.
Newcastle/Bloodaxe Poetry Series: 7