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Poetry at Keble

Poetry & Painting

The T J Clark Seminar at Keble

Poems about paintings have long been part of literary tradition, and many such poems go on being written. Why? What is hoped for from them? What is involved in the passage from picture to word? This seminar series will look at particular poems and paintings, ancient and modern, with such questions in mind.

Professor Timothy Clark is one of the world’s most renowned art historians. He taught for many years at the University of California, Berkeley, and is the author of several books, including The Painting of Modern Life: Paris in the Art of Manet and his Followers (1985), Farewell to an Idea: Episodes from a History of Modernism (1999), The Sight of Death: An Experiment in Art Writing (2006), Picasso and Truth: From Cubism to Guernica (2013), Heaven on Earth: Painting and the Life to Come (2018), and If These Apples Should Fall: Cézanne and the Present (2022).

The Poetry & Painting seminars will take place three times a year. There are no sign-up lists or reserved places (free entry, and all are welcome). A few weeks in advance of each seminar a handout will be made available via a downloadable link which will feature the poetry and painting to be discussed. At the seminar Clark will introduce the material and lead the discussion.

Questions to be explored will include:

The next seminar in the series is entitled ‘About Bruegel They Were Never Wrong’

Professor Clark notes:

“Bruegel’s paintings have been the subject of many poems. We might want to ask why. I have selected two groups of 3 poems derived from a particular Bruegel painting – Landscape with the Fall of Icarus and Hunters in the Snow – and three more poems, by Auden, Williams (on Haymaking, but I think also with The Corn Harvest in mind) and Szymborska. Questions that have come up in the first two seminars – about how best to make a picture appear in words, about how much or how little to spell out of a picture’s meaning (if we think it has one), about how (or whether) the poem should attempt to evoke the painting’s look – will recur. And questions about which of the poems succeed as poetry, and whether success depends on any of the previous questions.”

The seminar will take place at 5.30 pm on Tuesday 30th April 2024 in The Pusey Room at Keble. Handout below. Free entry, all welcome, no tickets or booking required.

Enquiries: please contact Matthew Bevis.


Seminar 3: ‘About Bruegel They Were Never Wrong’
Seminar 2: How is a Poem about a Painting? – for the poems, see here; and for the paintings, see here.
Seminar 1: ‘Self-Portrait in a Convex Mirror’ – For the Parmigianino painting, see here.