Poetry and conflict

  • November 4, 2014

Three Gates Cambridge Scholars have set up a new reading group which focuses on the role of poetry in conflict, looking at how ethics might relate to poetry.

Three Gates Cambridge Scholars have set up a new reading group which focuses on the role of poetry in conflict, looking at how ethics might relate to poetry.

Poethics, which launched last week, will run weekly and is open to any scholar, regardless of their knowledge of poetry or politics. The group uses poetry to analyse and interrogate ideas about conflict and to ask questions like: What is the role of poetry in conflict? Where do poetry and politics meet? Can poetry bring reconciliation?

The group was set up by Noa Levin [2014 – MPhil in European literature and culture], Afrodita Nikolova [2014 – PhD in Education] and Cillian Ó Fathaigh [2914 – MPhil in European literature and culture] on the basis that the issues it covers motivate a lot of people within the Gates community. Cillian says: “What we want to do is draw on the diverse background and disciplines of the Gates community and create a reading group that looks at poetry and conflict through a variety of different approaches, and considers these issues through multiple lenses and perspectives. That’s what makes the group really exciting.”

Early sessions are focusing on Northern Ireland, Israel/Palestine and The Balkans, but the organisers are open to other conflicts and cultures. The first session last week saw participants reading six poems – two each from Northern Ireland, Palestine/Israel and The Balkans – although the discussion centred on Northern Ireland, the idea of freedom and what this means within a conflict situation, as it related to Seamus Heaney’s poem Casualty. Participants also looked at Christian imagery, the role of poetry in the inheritance of mythical ideas and how poetry can reach out to other communities.

Cillian says: “One of the great things about the group is that it’s somewhat open and experimental. This means that it’s difficult to impose particular goals or to project where we might end up. That said, some of the issues that myself, Noa and Afrodita are interested in, include: the role of art in creating dialogue; issues of the representation of violence; the intersection of multiple identities; the author’s relation to their place and community; and, the possibility of reconciliation through poetry. Equally, it is a great opportunity to learn more about a particular conflict, which people may have read about in news reports or online, and may offer a different sort of perspective than what they’ve encountered previously.”

* Meetings take place in the Gates Room on Thursdays at 7pm. Picture credit: Wiki Commons.

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