News

Poetry through the ages explored in new Art Gallery of NSW series



12 June 2013

Barry Spurr
"The subjects that poets have taken through the ages, while necessarily having different emphases and interpretations in different periods, reflect enduring aspects of human experience, making poetry ever new, however old it may be," says Professor Barry Spurr.

Professor of Poetry and Poetics Barry Spurr will feed the public appetite for enduring poetry as presenter of an exciting new series at the Art Gallery of NSW entitled 'Coffee lectures: Poetry through the ages'.

Presented by the Art Gallery Society of NSW, the six-part series, beginning Thursday 13 June, will acquaint a new generation of art enthusiasts with timeless verse, from early modern love poetry by such metaphysical greats as Donne, Herbert and Milton, through to the works of 20th Century modernists including Yeats and TS Eliot.

Spurr, who has previously presented several occasional lectures at the Art Gallery of NSW on Victorian poetry and the poetry of the 1950s and 60s, said he hopes this new wide-ranging series will provide audiences with "a sense of the conspectus of poetry in English as it developed through several centuries".

"We tend to read poetry - indeed, literature at large - in terms of this or that historical period and how poetry reflects and expresses its concerns," he said.

"A fuller appreciation is achieved if we see how succeeding periods of human history reveal, in the poetry of the different times, reactions to and developments from what has gone before."

Executive Director of the Art Gallery Society of NSW, Craig Brush, said the new series represents the Society's first "intensive exploration of the history of poetry".

"The Art Gallery Society aims to present lectures and courses that explore broader themes and range of the humanities, not just the visual arts," he said.

"We have had Professor Spurr present lectures to the Gallery members in the past...and each time he has thrilled and delighted audiences with his passion and knowledge of poetry and his ability to communicate with an audience is exceptional."

As a staunch advocate for making poetry accessible beyond formal learning institutions, Spurr takes issue with the current teaching of poetry in education that focuses mainly on 'relevant' twentieth-century, contemporary and Australian texts. He said the series will help ameliorate this approach by considering poetry from a much wider range, encouraging modern readers to appreciate poems in their historical contexts and the value of reading widely in those contexts.

"My experience over many years in teaching seventeenth-century poetry is that students - and audiences at large - are only too willing to open their minds beyond the present and journey imaginatively into very different worlds, and, moreover, enjoy their splendid use of language, precisely because it is so very different from contemporary speech," he said.

"The subjects that poets have taken through the ages, while necessarily having different emphases and interpretations in different periods, reflect enduring aspects of human experience, making poetry ever new, however old it may be."

Later this year, Spurr will return to the Art Gallery of NSW to deliver a lecture on Kenneth Slessor as part of a broader exhibition on artistic representations of Sydney in the 20th Century.


EVENT DETAILS


What: 'Coffee lectures: Poetry through the ages' at the Art Gallery of NSW

When: Thursdays 13-27 June, 11-25 July, 10am

Where: Domain Theatre, Art Gallery of NSW, Art Gallery Rd, The Domain, Sydney

Cost: Single session: $25 member/$30 non-member/$20 student; Full Series $125 member/$150 non-member


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Contact: Emily Jones

Phone: 02 9114 1961; 0405 208 616

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