Simon Armitage, Poet Laureate, will give the 2022 Clark Lectures. He shares his thoughts on taking part in this historic lecture series.
“I was very honoured, and not a little daunted, to be invited to give the Clark Lectures – the professors, authors and thinkers who have stood at the lectern in previous years have left some large metaphorical footprints in their wake. As have the dozens of famous (and infamous) poets who have passed through the gates of Trinity College, including John Dryden, the first official Poet Laureate and the man I should probably thank for the many boxes of sherry currently piled up in my garage.”*
“For four years, at another Trinity College sixty plus miles to the southwest, I gave a dozen lectures on the subject of poetry, and felt at the end that I did not have a single syllable left to say on the subject. I made a promise to myself to go back to writing verse and giving readings, and for the time being that is a contract I intend to respect. So at the encouragement of Trinity, I will be giving two presentations of my work during my fortnight at the University.
When I began writing and publishing poems in the late ‘eighties, the poetry reading was seen by some (me included, possibly) as a slightly vulgar side-show, or, at best, just a chance to give the poems a day out before insisting they return to the silent, two-dimensional plane of the printed page. Poetry has changed a great deal in the intervening years and so has my take on it. I like the idea that it can still offer a home to the reluctant author who prefers to operate from the shadows, but I also like the idea that giving public readings can be a necessary part of the poet’s role – standing up in front of an audience and getting the poems to operate as talk, or song, or prayer, or chant.
I’m also a big fan of Keynote (that’s PowerPoint for PC users) – illustrating the poems with projected images – a heresy according to some purists, so all the more irresistible at times. I don’t know Cambridge very well so I’m seeing this as a chance to get to know the University, the city and even the county. And to meet people; as a maker of poems it’s an opportunity to barter and banter with students and scholars of literature whose art is more often analysis and commentary.”
* The Poet Laureate is traditionally presented with a butt (720 bottles) of sherry.
The Clark Lectures will take place in Lady Mitchell Hall, Sidgwick Site, Cambridge, CB3 9DD on Thursday 3 March and Thursday 10 March, from 5pm. Mr Armitage will read selections from Paper Aeroplane and Sandettie Light Vessel Automatic.
Both events are free, but it is essential to book tickets in advance via Eventbrite.
Paper Aeroplane and other inner journeys: 3 March
Sandettie Light Vessel Automatic and other outings: 10 March