02 May 2024, 19:00

Poetry with Ishion Hutchinson, Maria Stepanova, and translator Sasha Dugdale

Join us for an evening of continent-spanning poetry, with Ishion Hutchinson, Maria Stepanova, and translator Sasha Dugdale.

Free & open to all. Places limited. Arrive early to avoid disappointment.

Most events take place on our first floor, which is accessible by stairs. If you have any concerns about access, please don't hesitate to contact us.

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The outbreak of Covid-19 cut short Maria Stepanova’s stay in Cambridge in 2020. Back in Russia, she spent the ensuing months in a state of torpor – the world had withdrawn from her, time had ‘gone numb’. When she awoke from this state, she began to read Ovid, and the shock of the pandemic dissolved into the voices and metaphors of an epochal experience.

Her book-length poem Holy Winter 20/21, written in a frenzy of poetic inspiration, speaks of winter and war, of banishment and exile, of social isolation and existential abandonment. Stepanova finds sublime imagery for the process of falling silent, interweaving love letters and travelogues, Chinese verse and Danish fairy tales into a polyphonic evocation of frozen and slowly thawing time.

Following her previous book of poetry, War of the Beasts and the Animals – in part a response to the Donbas conflict – her book’s title is even more prophetic now, echoing a famous patriotic Soviet song from 1941, ‘a holy war is underway’.

Maria Stepanova is a poet, novelist, essayist, journalist and the author of ten poetry collections and three books of essays. Her book War of the Beasts and the Animals (Bloodaxe Books, 2021), translated by Sasha Dugdale, was the first English translation of her poetry. It was a Poetry Book Society Translation Choice, won a PEN Translates Award, and was shortlisted for the Warwick Prize for Women in Translation 2021. Her documentary novel In Memory of Memory was published in English in Sasha Dugdale's translation by Fitzcarraldo and was shortlisted for the 2021 International Booker Prize, the Warwick Prize for Women in Translation 2021, and the 2022 James Tait Black Prize for Biography. Maria Stepanova’s book-length poem Holy Winter 20/21, translated by Sasha Dugdale, is published by Bloodaxe Books in the UK in March 2024.

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In language that is sensuous and biblical, School of Instructions centres on the experience of West Indian volunteer soldiers in British regiments during the First World War. The poem gathers the psychic and physical terrors of these Black soldiers in the Middle East war theatre and refracts their struggle against the colonial power they served. The narratives of the soldiers overlap with Godspeed, a young schoolboy living in rural Jamaica of the 1990s. This visionary collision, written in a form Ishion Hutchinson calls ‘contrapuntal versets’, unsettles time and event. It reshapes grand gestures of heroism into a music of supple, vigilant intensity. Elegiac and odic, epochal and lyrical, the triumph of School of Instructions is how it confronts the legacy of imperial silencing and etches shards of remembrances into a form of survival. School of Instructions was nominated for the T.S.Eliot Prize 2023.

Ishion Hutchinson was born in Port Antonio, Jamaica. He is the author of the poetry collections Far District, winner of the PEN/Joyce Osterweil Award for Poetry, and House of Lords and Commons, which received the National Book Critics Circle Award in Poetry. He is the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship, the Joseph Brodsky Rome Prize in Literature, the Whiting Award, and a Donald Windham-Sandy M. Campbell Literature Prize, among other honours.

Sans titre
“Shakespeare is the happy hunting ground of all minds that have lost their balance.”
JAMES JOYCE, ULYSSES

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