IPSI Festival Canberra – Poetry and Place – Simon Armitage

The International Poetry Studies Institute (IPSI) is part of the Centre for Creative and Cultural Research in the Arts and Design Faculty of Canberra University.

Last week (6-16 Sept 2016) IPSI was host to a Festival entitled ‘Poetry on the Move’. And poetry is certainly on the move in Canberra in an upward direction. There were quite a variety of sessions including launches, readings, workshops and lectures.

There were two international poets in residence for the Festival – Simon Armitage from the UK and Tusiata Avia a Samoan-New Zealand poet.

For this post I will concentrate on the keynote lecture given by Simon Armitage (Professor of Poetry at Sheffield University, and last year appointed Professor of Poetry at Oxford – a part-time position.)

His topic was Poetry and Place. The first-up poem he chose to demonstrate the link was the Ted Hughes poem – ‘Full Moon and Little Frieda’.

Full Moon and Little Frieda

A cool small evening shrunk to a dog bark and the clank of a bucket –
And you listening.
A spider’s web, tense for the dew’s touch.
A pail lifted, still and brimming – mirror
To tempt a first star to a tremor.

Cows are going home in the lane there, looping the hedges with their warm
wreaths of breath –
A dark river of blood, many boulders,
Balancing unspilled milk.
‘Moon!’ you cry suddenly, ‘Moon! Moon!’

The moon has stepped back like an artist gazing amazed at a work
That points at him amazed.

Ted Hughes

I was interested in the key word that SA chose in relation to ‘place’. It was the word ‘there’ in that long first line in the second stanza.

There’ telescopes the mind to a distinct familiar place – familiar to the poet Ted Hughes. TH wrote this poem at ‘Court Green’, Devon. If you are familiar with the English countryside and the narrow lanes and if you have experienced waiting for a long line of cows to wind their way to a place of milking you can readily visualise a specific place akin to that described.

If a poet knows a place intimately then description is authentic and, as in this poem, if personal detail is involved more attention is likely in the construction. That instance in the yard involving TH and Frieda is caught as a lasting memory of a valued moment between a father and the toddler daughter. Apparently Sylvia Plath had a liking for this text as she had kept the manuscript and it was in her flat at the time of her death.

I have discussed this poem in more detail in a previous post, which includes comments from Andrew Motion … http://richard-outoftheblue.blogspot.com.au/2011/09/full-moon-and-little-frieda-ted-hughes.html

A link to Canberra University and IPSI … https://www.canberra.edu.au/research/faculty-research-centres/cccr/ipsi

A link to Simon Armitage’s ‘Poetry and Place’ lecture will appear on the IPSI journal website … http://www.axonjournal.com.au/

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