Join us for a special event celebrating the ‘georgic’ in modern literature, and featuring readings of poetry and prose by three of the country’s finest contemporary writers.
The Georgics (29 BC), by the Roman poet Virgil, is sometimes described as a ‘farming manual in verse’. Its descriptions of agriculture and exploration of humanity’s relationship with nature have inspired writers for centuries. It is also famous for its tensions and its ability to deal with darker social themes including war. As relevant now as it ever has been, The Georgics helps us to consider how we might forge an ethics of care for the natural world and for each other.
Our three guest writers have all reworked and adapted Virgil’s themes in different ways, all of which speak powerfully to our own times. Newly-appointed Poet Laureate Simon Armitage will read from his collection Still, a sequence of poems based on The Georgics and written in response to photographic archives of the WW1 battlefields of the Somme. Helen Juke’s prose memoir A Honeybee Heart has Five Openings tells the story of her journey to becoming an urban bee-keeper, caring for her hive and learning the language of bees. Jack Thacker’s new poetry collection Handling is a moving evocation of the lives of farming families, past and present . The readings will be followed by an opportunity for audience questions and discussion, chaired by the journalist and nature writer Richard Smyth.
The reading is open to all, but places are limited so booking in advance is essential. Tickets are £10 and include a drink in the price of the ticket. Doors open at 6.30pm for a 7.00pm start.
This event is organised in collaboration with the Reworking Georgic conference at the University of Leeds, with support from the British Academy and The Leverhulme Trust.
Image: plaster cast hands of Joseph Arch (1826-1919), image copyright © The Museum of English Rural Life, University of Reading (MERL 75/16/1–2)
Simon Armitage was born in 1963 in West Yorkshire, where he lives, and is Professor of Poetry at Leeds University. He has published over a dozen full-length collections of poetry, most recently The Unaccompanied, along with novels, memoir and his acclaimed translations of medieval verse, including Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. Armitage also works as a broadcaster, librettist and song-lyricist, and writes extensively for television, radio and theatre. Between 2015 and 2019 he was Oxford University Professor of Poetry, and in 2019 was appointed Poet Laureate.
Helen Jukes’ writing has appeared in BBC Wildlife, Caught by the River, The Junket, Port Magazine and others. Her first book, A Honeybee Heart Has Five Openings, was published in 2018 to wide critical acclaim. She teaches on the creative writing programme at Oxford University, and lives on the edge of the Peak District.
Jack Thacker grew up on a farm in Herefordshire and recently completed a PhD on contemporary georgic poetry at the Universities of Bristol and Exeter. His poems have appeared in numerous online and print magazines, including PN Review, Stand and The Clearing, as well as on BBC Radio 4. In 2016, he won the Charles Causley International Poetry Competition. He was the poet in residence at the Museum of English Rural Life in Reading from October 2017 to March 2018 and his debut pamphlet, Handling, was published by Two Rivers Press in 2018.
Richard Smyth writes about nature and books for the TLS, the Guardian, the New Statesman, BBC Wildlife and the Literary Review. His last book was A Sweet, Wild Note, a cultural history of birdsong.