Poets for PEN IV

Posted: December 12, 2013 in 2013-14, Events, Writers

Saturday 30 November saw the return of Poets for PEN. Our fourth poetry night, held at Queen’s College, featured readings from Simon Altmann, David Constantine, and Hannah Sullivan – three very brilliant, very different writers, who were all kind enough to participate in a full and wide-ranging conversation after the reading about the purpose and politics of poetry. Can poetry be a free space, a playing space, where we are not obliged to confront the world we live in? Or should it do precisely that – should it face up to the modern world, be it through registering political injustice or the altogether more banal preoccupations of the Facebook generation? Can we trust words like “beauty” and “truth” when we talk about poetry, or should we be sceptical of those Keatsian virtues? These were but a few of the big and difficult questions which the poets addressed in their discussion, and as they’re the kind of questions we’ve set out to ask ourselves in the past – at our Defence of Poetry event in May 2013, for example – we were delighted that three great minds were willing to share their perspectives with the PEN audience. It was a special night too for our own translation project: during our campaigning sessions every Wednesday lunchtime Oxford Student PEN members have been translating poetry, and at Poets for PEN IV Jennifer Chan and Anna Tankel each read, beautifully, some examples of this work.

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