‘rhythm and line and necessity’: John Riley and Czargrad

By , 19 February 2014 9:00 am

‘Царьград’, Riley’s title of a folder containing drafts of ‘Czargrad’. From MS Add. 10038.

A new exhibition in the University Library Entrance Hall traces the composition of John Riley’s poem Czargrad, a seminal work in the alternative tradition of British poetry exemplified by the so-called ‘Cambridge School’ in the 1960s and 1970s.

Riley was born in Leeds in 1937 and was educated at Pembroke College, Cambridge, between 1958 and 1961. He took employment as a schoolteacher before leaving the profession to concentrate on literary work. He was killed in a street robbery in Leeds in 1978, aged 41. John Riley’s literary papers were generously donated to Cambridge University Library by his wife, Carol Riley Brown, in 2013. Continue reading '‘rhythm and line and necessity’: John Riley and Czargrad

‘All things go free that have survived’: Seamus Heaney 1939–2013

By , 10 September 2013 11:08 am

Seamus signatureSeamus Heaney, the most celebrated member of a remarkable generation of Irish poets, died on the 30th of August at the age of 74. His full-length books of verse were published in Britain by Faber and Faber, but he also co-operated with artists and printers in a number of smaller-scale private and fine-press productions of his poetry. A small exhibition has been mounted in the Entrance Hall, drawing on the Library’s rich collections of such material, and on correspondence from Heaney forming part of the papers of his fellow poet Anne Stevenson. Keep reading …

Henri Maccheroni artist-books exhibition

By , 6 September 2013 3:04 pm

Henri Maccheroni: study for ‘Trêves et rêves. Jérusalem’

In the context of the international colloquium ‘Les Espaces du Livre: Supports et acteurs de la création texte/image (XXe-XXIe siècles)’, held at Trinity College from 6-8 September, an exhibition has been installed in the Library’s North Front Corridor display cases, offering a mise en scène of text and image spatialisation through a selection of three artist-books by Henri Maccheroni: Trêves et rêves. Jérusalem, (Truces and dreams. Jerusalem), La partie de peinture (A game of painting), and Robert Rovini’s La chauve-souris (The bat).

 The exhibition runs in the Library’s North Front Corridor until Saturday 12 October, during normal Library opening hours.  Members of the University holding a Library reader’s card are welcome to bring up to two visitors at a time to see the exhibition.  Members of the public who do not hold a Library reader’s card may be able to make an appointment to gain access to the exhibition area.  For further information e-mail exhibitions@lib.cam.ac.uk or telephone 01223 333055).


Clive Wilmer poetry reading

By , 6 June 2013 9:30 am
Clive Wilmer

Clive Wilmer

On Thursday 20 June the poet Clive Wilmer will give a reading from his work to mark the launch of his Collected Poems from Carcanet Press. The event will take place in the Milstein Seminar Room in Cambridge University Library, West Road, at 5.00 p.m. The reading will be introduced by Carcanet publisher Michael Schmidt, and admission is free with no advance booking required. For further information contact John Wells: 01223 333055 or e-mail <jdw1000@cam.ac.uk>.

The Cambridge Ladders

By , 29 May 2013 9:30 am
One of Ian Starsmore's ladders in the Entrance Hall.

One of Ian Starsmore’s ladders in the Entrance Hall.

Recent visitors to the Library’s Entrance Hall cannot fail to have noticed the new art installation there, which extends up the stairways and on to the First Floor landing. ‘The Cambridge Ladders’ is the work of the artist and writer Ian Starsmore, who was for many years a Head of Department at the Norwich School of Art and has exhibited in England and abroad as a painter and printmaker, including at the New York and London Print Fairs. Ian has organised many exhibitions, and is currently Curator of Cley Contemporary Art 2013.

Ian writes: “I began to make images of ladders in 2010, in drawings, wood and silver. I was interested in shapes that matched each other in the way the side rails of ladders do, finding these in the broken branches in the woods around where I live, and was led to consider the contrasts in the use of them. I liked using material which is of no measurable value, together with a metal whose worth is unquestioned, bullish even on stock-markets. Keep reading …

Peter Scupham at Eighty

By , 25 April 2013 12:39 pm
Draft of Scupham's poem ‘Out of Season’

A draft of Scupham’s poem ‘Out of Season’, from MS Add. 9941.

The new exhibition in the North Front Corridor celebrates the eightieth birthday of the distinguished poet Peter Scupham.

Born in Bootle in 1933, Scupham read English at Emmanuel College, Cambridge. While working as a schoolteacher, and later in semi-retirement as a bookseller, Scupham has produced eleven full-length collections of poetry in addition to volumes of Selected and Collected poems. His formal and technically adroit poems have been seen as continuing the tradition of Hardy, Frost and Edward Thomas; childhood, England, ghosts and war are among his typical themes. He has written that he would like his poems ‘to be windows not mirrors…. A window cuts a shape, and I am fascinated by structure, harmony, balance – all those qualities which give definition to the view’. He received a Cholmondeley Award in 1996 and is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature. Keep reading …

Ten Thousand and Counting

By , 18 February 2013 8:33 am
Additional Manuscripts (Notebooks of Lord Acton)

Add them up: they come to 10,000

The Manuscripts Department has just reached a milestone with the arrival of its ten-thousandth Additional Manuscript, a collection of letters addressed to the poet and academic Michael Grant. It joins an immensely varied array of manuscript and archival material which has been 150 years in the making and includes some of the Library’s most remarkable treasures.

The practice of allotting newly-acquired manuscripts a number in the ‘Additional’ series began in the mid-nineteenth century. Between the years 1856 and 1867, the University published a five-volume catalogue of the Western manuscripts it had accumulated over the preceding centuries, the great majority of which had identifying references in the ‘two-letter’ class running from Dd.1.1 to Oo.7.60. Only in the last of these catalogue volumes did the Additional Manuscripts make an appearance, under a brief heading which noted that they ‘had hitherto no shelf-mark’. Keep reading …

Showing Their Hands

By , 17 September 2012 6:00 am
Abraham Cowley

Portrait and facsimile handwriting of Abraham Cowley, from John Thane's 'British Autography'. LE.28.10.

Dawson Turner, the banker, antiquary, and leading light of autograph collectors in the early nineteenth century, claimed that he had ‘never met with the man who was not gratified to see how Newton wrote, or how Milton and Bacon formed their letters’. Since poetry is the most intense and heightened mode of language, fascination with the physicality of an autograph text, and the excitement provided by a sense of proximity to the writer, has often been especially strong in the case of poetical manuscripts.

The emergence of respect for autograph writings, which does not seem to have been common before the eighteenth century, has been attributed to the proliferation of print culture and the uniformity of mass-produced books. Walter Benjamin defined a work of art’s ‘aura’ as ‘its presence in time and space, its unique existence at the place where it happens to be’, and the American poet Dana Gioia, quoting Benjamin, extended this idea to literary manuscripts in order to explain the special value accorded to autograph texts. Yet Gioia’s essay has appeared in The Hand of the Poet (New York, 1997), a machine-made volume of printed facsimile reproductions of poets’ handwriting, and in actual practice the medium of print has proved to be a means by which some measure of the aura of autographs can be communicated.

Showing Their Hands: Poets’ Autographs in Facsimile, a new exhibition in the Library’s North Front Corridor (accessible to those with University Library reader’s cards), traces some of the ways in which poets’ handwriting has been disseminated in print. Keep reading …

Joanne Limburg Papers

By , 24 May 2012 11:57 am
Joanne Limburg

Joanne Limburg. Photograph: Chris Hadley.

For some time the Library has been engaged in building its collections of papers of modern and contemporary poets with local Cambridge connections, whether to the town or the University. Accessions of archival material relating to writers as varied as Siegfried Sassoon, Nicholas Moore, Anne Stevenson and Peter Scupham have significantly enhanced our holdings in this area in recent years.

Last month we were delighted to receive the generous donation of a collection of poetry drafts by Joanne Limburg. Born in London in 1970, Joanne read Philosophy at King’s College Cambridge, and was a Royal Literary Fund Fellow at Magdalene College from 2008 to 2010. The recipient of an Eric Gregory Award in 1998, she has had two full-length volumes of verse published by Bloodaxe Books: Femenismo in 2000, which was shortlisted for the Forward Prize for Best First Collection, and Paraphernalia in 2007, which was a Poetry Book Society Recommendation. A pamphlet collection, The Oxygen Man, has recently been published by Five Leaves Press. Keep reading …

A Claudel archive

By , 5 April 2012 4:49 pm

Claudel postcard address

Claudel's last postcard to Audrey Parr, addressed using her married name, sent from Paris in November 1939. MS Add. 9591/133.

During the First World War, the poet, playwright and diplomat Paul Claudel (1868-1955) struck up a friendship with Audrey Parr, the wife of a British diplomat. Her granddaughter, Mrs L. M. Jack, generously presented the Claudel letters, postcards verses and books accumulated by Mrs Parr to the University Library, and an online catalogue of the archival material has recently been added to Janus.

Claudel first met Audrey Parr during the First World War. The daughter of a French Alsatian father and a British mother of Polish and Brazilian parentage, Audrey had married Raymond Parr, then Third Secretary in the British Embassy in Rome, in 1913. Claudel undertook a mission there in 1915-16, and the friendship deepened when both Raymond Parr and Claudel were appointed in Rio de Janeiro. In Brazil Audrey Parr collaborated with Claudel and his secretary, the composer Darius Milhaud, in the ballet L’Homme et son Désir, for which she provided set designs. She and Claudel met intermittently in the 1920s as he and Raymond Parr pursued their careers to various countries; Claudel was made ambassador to Tokyo and Washington, while the Parrs were posted to Teheran. After the Parrs’ separation in 1930 Audrey settled in London, and married Captain Norman Colville in 1938. On the outbreak of the Second World War she enlisted as a nursing officer in the Red Cross, and was killed in a road accident between Launceston and Egloskerry on 7 May 1940.
Keep reading …