22 October 2012
The Bristol Poetry Institute was launched – literally with a fanfare – on Wednesday 10 October. The Scottish musician John Sampson, accompanying the Poet Laureate, Carol Ann Duffy (image, left), blew a splendid blast of welcome to 850 attendees in the Great Hall of the Wills Memorial Building, before playing on an impressive array of pipes, whistles, and other musical instruments during a joint performance lasting over an hour. After brief speeches by Professor Guy Orpen (PVC Research) and Professor Daniel Karlin, Winterstoke Professor of English Literature and Director of the BPI, Carol Ann Duffy took the stage and enthralled the audience with readings from old and recent work, including poems from one of her most popular collections, The World’s Wife, and her most recent, The Bees. Mixing trenchant social and political comment with humour and passages of profound emotional engagement, this was a performance that demonstrated why she holds a unique place in the landscape of contemporary poetry.
The BPI’s programme for its inaugural year is taking shape, and Professor Karlin emphasized its ambition to be as diverse and inclusive as possible, to ‘take an interest in this great human art in all its historical and contemporary forms’. The BPI aims to foster participation by students and alumni as well as by the many colleagues working on poetry in a wide variety of ancient and modern languages across the Faculty, and to create a shared space between the University and the city. It should be an enterprise which reflects the best of our University – enlightened, outgoing, open-minded.
Professor Karlin paid tribute to Professor Andrew Bennett, of the Department of English, who initiated the founding of the Institute, and to BIRTHA and the Public and Ceremonial Office for their generous support of the launch.