On 29 March 2012, Goldsmiths brought together writers, scholars, students and the wider public to participate in the performance of new poetry and to reflect on the relationships between poetry, athletics, art and politics.
Poetry, as much as athletics, has been an Olympic industry from the start, in Olympia 776 BCE. When the Games were revived in 1896, in Athens, as a modern event resembling the Games as we know them today, poetry was again part of the proceedings. This impulse has since been echoed in the Cultural Olympiads, which have traditionally accompanied the modern Games.
“Poetry, like the modern media of film, television and video, presents a moving picture of the Olympics,” says Dr. Michael Simpson, Senior Lecturer in English Literature, Goldsmiths. “The event aims to explore the historical association between poetry and the Olympics and to recapture creatively some of the spirit behind that connection, here at Goldsmiths.”
Speakers included - Jo Shapcott (Royal Holloway), Barbara Goff (University of Reading), Armand D'Angour (Jesus College, Oxford), and Blake Morrison, Michael Simpson, Maura Dooley, Joan Anim-Addo, Stephen Knight and Ardashir Vakil (all Goldsmiths).
In preparations for London 2012, poetry has loomed large. The Games will start ceremonially with the ringing of a bell on which a speech from Shakespeare’s The Tempest has been inscribed. Poetry will peal to let the Games begin. In the Olympic Village and Park, a competition has resulted in some inspiring verses being engraved, as permanent installations, across central sites and structures, including lines from Alfred Lord Tennyson’s Ulysses. Poems by Caroline Bird, John Burnside, Carol Ann Duffy, Jo Shapcott and Lemn Sissay also feature prominently there.
This event was hosted by the Department of English and Comparative Literature and takes place under the aegis of the Classical Reception Studies Network, in which Goldsmiths is a partner institution.
*Image courtesy of London 2012.
10.30am – Coffee
10.45am – Welcome, from Dr. Tim Parnell (Goldsmiths)
11.00am – Opening poems – readings by Blake Morrison, Joan Anim-Addo, Jack Underwood, Abigail Parry, Seraphima Kennedy
11.15am – Dr. Michael Simpson (Goldsmiths): ‘Poetry in motion: poems, games, bodies and buildings’
11.45am – Poems – readings by Stephen Knight, Jocelyn Page, Aoife Casby, Ardashir Vakil
12.00pm – Professor Barbara Goff (University of Reading): ‘Ode to Sport: Poetic Contests and Cultural Olympiads’
12.55pm – Poems – reading by Ros Barber
1.00pm – Lunchtime break
2.15pm – Dr. Armand D’Angour (Jesus College, Oxford): ‘New Olympics, new odes: recreating poetic traditions’
3.15pm – Poems – readings by Kate Miller, Matthew Gregory, Katrina Naomi, Maura Dooley
3.30pm – Break
3.45pm – Poems – readings by Blake Morrison, Maura Dooley and others
4.00pm – Professor Jo Shapcott (Royal Holloway) – Keynote poetry reading
4.30pm – Roundtable discussion with Armand D’Angour, Barbara Goff, Isobel Hurst, Carol MacGillivray, Jo Shapcott, Michael Simpson
5.00 – 6.00pm – Reception for participants, including students, staff, alumni and applicants
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