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      Graham Fawcett         

    writer, teacher, lecturer, translator and broadcaster

At the White Horse Tavern, Hudson Street, New York with Dylan


“Your evenings are always a revealing delight”.

(Regular member of the audience in Lewes)


Events and Courses Calendar


e-mail: grahamkfawcett@gmail.com


“An electrifying evening . . . the atmosphere was tremendous”.                              (Irena Hill, Dante Night in Greenwich, 2016)



Coming soon, and all bookable singly  

(this calendar is usually updated every two or three days)  


“If you have never experienced Graham Fawcett, you have missed something . . . These are big talks, packed full of imagination and research”.         

                                                                                           Bridport Review, 2016


                                                                                   photo: Birgitta Johansson                                      





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On the terrace at the Keats/Shelley House, Rome 2015                                                  Photo: Sarah Glazer Khedouri


Summer and Autumn 2019




5th - Dylan Thomas Night at West Bay (Bridport, Dorset)

17th - Charles Baudelaire Night in Greenwich

19th - Thomas Hardy (poet) Night in Hackney




17th - Shakespeare Night in Hackney


Thursday 17th October 2019 at 7pm



World Poets



Shakespeare the Poet


This still relatively recently discovered portrait of William Shakespeare - its very existence first announced to the world in March 2009 - is believed to be the only one painted in his lifetime. Our imagination’s batteries are uniquely re-charged as we finally look into his face for the first time and feel compelled to ask ourselves afresh so many things about him. Here's one: to what extent did the author of the Sonnets feel he was writing poems in his plays as though momentarily staging a poetry recital of set pieces to hold an audience’s breath in mid-drama?

Shakespeare left plenty of answers. Yes, they are there to be uncovered the moment one begins to explore the Sonnets, the longer poems ‘Venus and Adonis’ and ‘The Rape of Lucrece’, ‘The Passionate Pilgrim’ and ‘Verses in Love’s Martyr’. But like steeplechase clues, they can also be come upon time and again, and often in spectacular fashion, along the pathways of his theatre, at key moments in the lyrical plays, the tragedies and the late Romances, and sometimes for whole plays on end. “Richard II is a chunk of poetry about a god who wants to be a person", Fiona Shaw declared the other month on the Andrew Marr Show.

When Postumus says to Imogen, “Hang there like fruit, my soul, /till the tree die” in Act Five Scene five of Cymbeline, the audience is in the presence of one of the best line-breaks in poetry.

Yet when we go to see a Shakespeare play, the unfolding narrative, the constant impact of the action, and the naturalness of the verse as speech so take our minds off what Shakespeare is doing with it poetically, that much of the sheer craft of it simply sails over our heads.

In this lecture, first commissioned by the Bridport Literary Festival, Graham hooks that craft down out of the sky and hold it up to the audience. It will tell us, with an abundance of compelling examples from the Works, what distinguishes Shakespeare the poet from Shakespeare the dramatist, how the sonnets work, what relation there is between the longer poems and the plays, and where in particular the plays, in a stop-you-in-your-tracks way, become poetry.


Image: the Cobbe portrait controversially and confidently claimed by the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust to be of Willam Shakespeare



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The Great Chamber, Sutton House




"Sutton House is a Tudor house, but the Spirit of Place there goes beyond telling one story: it welcomes everyone to experience inclusiveness, creativity and respect through its walls, its team, its visitors and events. Graham’s voice embodies in a delicate yet immersive manner the essence of Sutton House. His personality, knowledge of poetry, and passion for history enable him to help his audience enter a world of meaningful experience, space and time giving way to a place of poetry grace."

          (Edoardo Bedin, Sutton House 2018 commercial and visitor experience manager, who commissioned this 2019 series before he left at the end of December 2019 to work for the National Trust in Aberdeen)


Booking open - click here


Tickets also available at the door on the night (cash payment)



Winter 2019-2020




4th - Keats 200 Night in Taunton


Monday 4th November 2019 at 630pm




World Poets

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Joseph Severn, earliest surviving portrait of John Keats, 1816

John Keats 200

marking the poet's annus mirabilis of 1819 and mensis mirabilis of

May in that year, the time of the great Odes



We think we know the 24-year-old who made the nightingale as much a watchword of our eternal earthly wonders as that bird’s own song has always been. But do we?

We may yet have the pleasure of knowing what it must have been like to open an envelope from probably the greatest letter-writer in the English language.

And what a life-story !

Yet in the face of never-ending family and physical challenges, Keats was fearlessly, tirelessly, hungrily creative on the page.

So here on Keats Night we will meet again a young man dead at 25 whose sonnets can stand alongside Shakespeare’s, whose great Odes are superlative and unspeakably exciting, and the sheer beauty of whose lyrical gift has seldom been surpassed by anyone in any language before or since. “There was”, said Joseph Severn, who was with him when he died in Rome, “a strong bias of the beautiful side of humanity in everything he did.”


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Posthumous portrait of John Keats by William Hilton. National Portrait Gallery, London


Booking open - click now






in progress




16th - Transformation as Art, Ovid's Metamorphoses 1 in Mayfair

23rd - Transformation as Art, Ovid's Metamorphoses 2 in Mayfair

30th - Transformation as Art, Ovid's Metamorphoses 3 in Mayfair



Thursday 16th January 2019, 1045am-1245pm


  Transformation As Art, Ovid’s Metamorphoses 1

in progress




6th - Transformation as Art, Ovid's Metamorphoses 4 in Mayfair

13th - Transformation as Art, Ovid's Metamorphoses 5 in Mayfair

20th - Transformation as Art, Ovid's Metamorphoses 6 in Mayfair

27th - Transformation as Art, Ovid's Metamorphoses 7 in Mayfair



Spring 2020




5th - Transformation as Art, Ovid's Metamorphoses 8 in Mayfair

12th - Transformation as Art, Ovid's Metamorphoses 9 in Mayfair

19th - Transformation as Art, Ovid's Metamorphoses 10 in Mayfair








Would you like to make someone a gift of a ticket to one or more of the events on this calendar?

If so, please read on!


   Gift Certificates and Vouchers




Paul Skirrow – a view from Little Gidding






Gift Certificates

Treat someone to a Seven Olympians or World Poets poetry lecture in or outside London, or one of the other events in 2019 already posted on Graham’s Events Calendar at http://www.grahamfawcett.co.uk/events.htm *. To apply, write to Graham Fawcett at grahamkfawcett@googlemail.com.

                                                            Gift Vouchers

If you prefer, you can purchase gift vouchers, which can then be used towards the cost of any event *, in multiples of £5 up to £50.


*Please note that this gift certificate and voucher scheme cannot be extended to include

The Course sessions – yet !




So inspirational - I could have spent all day discussing Blake's poetry.                                          Maggie Sawkins




“Thank you for the excellent day. I found my copy of Dorothy Wordsworth's Journals and dipped into it with first-time pleasure. Her entries mean so much more now you've supplied richer context.”

(Susie Barrett, WritersReadersDirect)



“A big thank-you to The Children’s Bookshow from our sixth form who were very positive about Graham's workshop yesterday. He was so energetic and engaged their attention brilliantly. Now we have a queue to read Iqbal! Thank you again for giving us this opportunity: it was a real treat."                                                           (St Mary’s School, Ilkley)


"Your walks really have been one of the most pleasurable aspects of living here!" (Sarah Glazer Khedouri)



“Your” London has been most enjoyable and enlightening for “an American in Bloomsbury”. (Sarah Greene)




ABC of lecture-performances available for your local venue

To book any of these lectures for your local venue::

write to Graham Fawcett at grahamkfawcett@googlemail.com

this feature in progress




World Poets series of lecture-performances-with-readings

World Poets - Anna Akhmatova



Anna Akhmatova’s was one of the most dramatic lives in the history of poetry. She lived through the Russian Revolutions of 1905 and 1917 when she was 16 and 28. Her ex-husband was executed by firing squad when she was 32. Stalin had her son repeatedly imprisoned as part of a campaign of persecution against her. She endured the bombardment prior to the Siege of Leningrad in 1941 with the inspirational mother-courage of Delacroix’s Liberty Leading the People, broadcasting to the women of Leningrad – we have the stirring transcripts - and on air-warden duty with a gas-mask slung over her shoulder.


No sooner was the war over than Akhmatova was ‘officially’ vilified in public in 1946 by Stalin’s sidekick Zhdanov as the epitomy of the anti-State artist and intellectual, “poisoning the youth with the pernicious spirit of her poetry”. Nearly twenty years later, Akhmatova, begowned in the purple of a Doctor of Literature, stood next to Siegfried Sassoon in Oxford’s Sheldonian Theatre to hear the Public Orator compare her to Sappho.

At the end of her life, Akhmatova looked back gratefully at what she had been through: “I never stopped writing poems. In them is my link with time, with the new life of my people . . . I believed in the resounding rhythms reflected in the heroic history of my country. I am happy that I lived in these years and saw events which cannot be equalled”.

“The young girl who reinvented herself as Anna Akhmatova”, wrote Elaine Feinstein, “would become one of the two greatest female poets in Russian literature; the other, Marina Tsvetayeva, would crown her with the title "Anna of all the Russias." We in Britain recognise her as one of the greatest poets of the twentieth century.


"Splendid and gripping".

(Mick Delap, after the first performance of this lecture in Greenwich on 13 November 2018



"A fascinating lecture. People were enthralled and totally engaged".

(Member of the audience at first performance of this lecture in Greenwich on 13 November 2018)




World Poets - W H Auden



How very much we enjoyed your Auden Night. We were interested, intrigued, challenged and stimulated, and went home and got out our old Audens to re-read.  

(Sallyann Halstead after Auden Night in Taunton, November 2016




W H Auden was a giant among poets of his generation, a master-craftsman of metrical rhythms you can feel running like Swiss clockwork through his verse lines, and a wonderfully adventurous organist of the English language.

Nourished by his native Yorkshire and the treasures of Anglo-Saxon and Middle English, traveller to Iceland, China, Spain and Berlin, close-quarters commentator on politics, religion, philosophy, art and human relations, Auden translated his gifted perceptions into some of the finest and most substantial poems England and the world have ever seen.

The experience of hearing him read from his work was tantamount to a conversion.



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Seven Olympians 5

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Charles Baudelaire

                                                         Photo: Étienne Carjat, 1863


"I was enthralled by Graham Fawcett's talk on Baudelaire.  He painted such vivid pictures with words, that you felt you understood the troubled poet and essayist, and the 'modern' influences of Paris in the 1800s that had shaped his life, loves and work.  Graham drew the listener into the world of the poet with such skill that, despite no previous knowledge of the subject and the sometimes complex nature of his work, I was totally at ease with Baudelaire's highly unique style.  Several pieces were delivered in full in the original French, allowing the music and rhythm of the lines to be appreciated, before an equally entertaining translation was given. A thoroughly enjoyable evening".

                                                                     (Meg Depla-Lake, at Baudelaire Night in Lewes)



Baudelaire is an exhilarating poet of the sea-voyage and the love-song who becomes the wandering lone lover of a city, descendant of Homer’s Ulysses, forefather of Joyce’s. To read him is to be instantaneously young, a champion bourgeois-baiting Frenchman, charismatically jaundiced, eloquently susceptible to beauty, isolation, melancholy, the wonders of transgression and the dark side, and hungry to paint the hidden faces of the Paris he famously dubbed a ‘swarming city, city full of dreams’.


Evening Harmony

Now comes the eve, when on its stem vibrates
Each flower, evaporating like a censer;
When sounds and scents in the dark air grow denser;
Drowsed swoon through which a mournful waltz pulsates!

Each flower evaporates as from a censer; 
The fiddle like a hurt heart palpitates; 
Drowsed swoon through which a mournful waltz pulsates;
The sad, grand sky grows, altar-like, immenser.

The fiddle, like a hurt heart, palpitates,
A heart that hates oblivion, ruthless censor.
The sad, grand sky grows, altar-like, immenser.
The sun in its own blood coagulates...

A heart that hates oblivion, ruthless censor,
The whole of the bright past resuscitates.
The sun in its own blood coagulates...
And, monstrance-like, your memory flames intenser!

— Roy Campbell, Poems of Baudelaire (New York: Pantheon Books, 1952)


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                                                                           Gustave Courbet, Charles Baudelaire (1847)


“The king of poets, a true God”

Arthur Rimbaud


“You have found a way to rejuvenate Romanticism . . . You are as unyielding as marble and as penetrating as an English mist”.

Gustave Flaubert to Baudelaire



“Any man who does not accept the conditions of life sells his soul”.



"I want to say how much I enjoyed your lecture last night; it set me thinking.... and this is always a welcome thing".                                

                                                                   (Audience member in Lewes)



World Poets - Elizabeth Bishop


                           Elizabeth Bishop               Joseph Breitenbach



Any poet who loved geography at school and named George Herbert as a mentor is likely to be strong on place and crystalline in clarity. Elizabeth Bishop’s poetry is steeped in a visionary narrative charisma generated by the journeys she made.

Robert Lowell praised ‘her tone’, which, he said ‘can be Venetian gorgeous or Quaker simple’ and her ‘abundance of description’ which ‘reminds one of the Russian novelists’. ‘In all matters of form: meter, rhythm, diction, timing, shaping, etc’ he said ‘she is a master’.



Elizabeth Bishop’s story is one of not only survival but an abundant self-realization against the odds. This spirited, clear, precise and adventurous poet had transformed, into a deep desire for travel and a passionate determination to write about it, the bitter harvest of her beginnings.


1911    (8th February) Elizabeth Bishop is born in Worcester, Massachusetts, the only

            child of an American father with Canadian antecedents and a Canadian mother

            “of Nova Scotian Baptist stock, . . . a sensitive woman with a fragile spirit”

             (Travisano, 1988).  (October) Her father dies. Following his death, her bereft

              and shocked mother Gertrude suffers a series of mental breakdowns which

             lead to periods in and out of sanatoriums and a final short stay with Elizabeth

             and the grandparents, after which she is permanently confined.

1916     The five-year-old Elizabeth leaves home - she will never see her mother again

              - to be brought up by her beloved maternal grandparents in Nova Scotia

              From there, she is “rescued” - she experienced it as a kidnap - one day at

              the age of six by her rich and puritanical paternal grandparents and taken

              away to a large house in Worcester, Mass. After nine months there, she is

              rescued again, this time by her mother’s elder sister, but, to her great relief,

              is able to return to the maternal grandparents in the summer-times. She is    

              also looked after, for a time, by her father’s sister in Boston.


1925      She decides to become a poet. “I was very isolated as a child”, she told

              an interviewer later, “and perhaps poetry was my way of making familiar

              what I saw around me”. . .


Elizabeth Bishop, ‘One Art’


The art of losing isn’t hard to master;

so many things seem filled with the intent

to be lost that their loss is no disaster.


Lose something every day. Accept the fluster

of lost door keys, the hour badly spent.

The art of losing isn’t hard to master.


Then practice losing farther, losing faster:

places, and names, and where it was you meant

to travel. None of these will bring disaster.


I lost my mother’s watch. And look! my last, or

next-to-last, of three loved houses went.

The art of losing isn’t hard to master.


I lost two cities, lovely ones. And, vaster,

some realms I owned, two rivers, a continent.

I miss them, but it wasn’t a disaster.


—Even losing you (the joking voice, a gesture

I love) I shan’t have lied. It’s evident

the art of losing’s not too hard to master

though it may look like (Write it!) like disaster.


Elizabeth Bishop, “One Art” from The Complete Poems 1926-1979. Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1983.

© 1979, 1983 by Alice Helen Methfessel.





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Elizabeth Bishop and Lota de Macedo Soares





Seven Olympians 3 - Lord Byron





“I awoke one morning and found myself famous”, said the 24-year-old George Gordon (Lord) Byron of the instant success of the first two cantos of his poem ‘Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage’, 196 breathtakingly rhymed nine-line stanzas of stunning verse travel narrative intensity as his enigmatic hero bestrides Europe decompressing his melancholy into reverie at everything he sees.


That Byron could have doubled this poem’s length, writing better and better as he went, on is wonderful enough; all the more extraordinary, then, that he could follow it with an even more commanding, incisively satirical, masterpiece, Don Juan, left unfinished at his death and still going wondrously strong at more than sixteen thousand lines in which he charismatically turns the tables on the macho misogynist Don Juan of legend and makes the world his acceptably tastier oyster.


“There are but two sentiments to which I am constant”, Byron said the year before he died at the age of 36, “a strong love of liberty and a detestation of cant”.  By then he had drunk both principles to the dregs, tantalising so many who met and read him with the spectacle of a bull-in-a-china-shop private life high on edgy gloom and emotional caprice careering alongside an unstoppably hungry philosophy of existence and of art finely tuned to one of the greatest poetic ears English literature has ever heard.




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Newstead Abbey’s Byron’s family home in Nottinghamshire, of which he became master at the age of ten in 1798

"Byron lived fast and died young. Graham brings the poet to life again for one extraordinary evening of poetry, politics and adventure. It’s wonderful."

(Lucy Moy-Thomas at the London Byron Night)


"I was royally entertained".

(Annie Freud, after Byron Night in West Bay, Bridport last time, in April 2013)


"Thank you for your wonderful talk on Byron. I found myself gripped and enthralled and am so pleased to have finally understood why my late mother was so besotted with Byron. Thank you for revealing why and how his work should be approached. Can't wait, now, for some time to sit down and enjoy what I've missed all these years!"   

(Jane Lees, at Farnham Byron Night)






Seven Olympians poetry lecture-performance-with-readings series



Seven Olympians 2


Geoffrey Chaucer


“I’ve heard, God knows, of how you lovers live,

Your mad observances and superstitions,

The pains you take, the services you give

To win your love; when won, what dread suspicions!

And when your prey is lost, what exhibitions

Of woe, fools that you are – and blind, dear brothers !

Not one of you takes warning from the others.”


And with that word he puckered up his look,

As if to say ‘Was that not wisely spoken?’

At which the god of love arose and shook

His angry head, revenge in him awoken . . .    

                                      (Geoffrey Chaucer, from Troilus and Criseyde, translated by Nevill Coghill)    


Geoffrey Chaucer was a Renaissance man long before the Renaissance. Sheer creative curiosity deployed his thoughts into a world vision. He obviously feasted on the humour and invention of Boccaccio’s Decameron, whose characters took it in turns to tell stories before Chaucer's ever did.

Chaucer is a virtuoso verse-storyteller of the most disarming clarity. The Canterbury Tales may always be the star turn, but should not be allowed to upstage four captivating early dream-poems and a Troilus and Criseyde which has been dubbed ‘the first English novel’.





You made my mind dance"

 Carla Steenkamp, at Brympton Festival Chaucer Night, Somerset


"You gave Chaucer to us - not only with a huge breadth of knowledge but managed to present the entire subject as a great romp through the Middle Ages"

                             Caroline Vero, at Chaucer Night in London

"How much I enjoyed the Chaucer evening! My knowledge of Chaucer was minimal; however your talk has made me really interested. I feel equipped now to begin reading Chaucer myself”.

(Hanne Busck-Nielsen, Chaucer Night, Oxford)




World Poets - Samuel Taylor Coleridge




Samuel Taylor Coleridge was a magician of the word, a hauntingly irresistible poet of nature and the imagination, a wildly inventive writer of letters, notebooks, essays, critical reviews and a unique poetical biography of himself, a thoroughly engaged political, social and literary journalist, and a talker for whom off the cuff was tantamount to off the starting-block and as though his train of thought could run through Clapham Junction on every platform simultaneously. He was an inveterate cross-country walker who covered in record time distances we might think twice about even by bus. His friendship and collaboration with William Wordsworth revolutionised English poetry. He divided his time restlessly between the West Country ,the Lakes, London and Germany, and drank deeply of the life and landscapes of all of them, while writing, largely thanks to them, some of the most justly famous and lovely poems in the English language.



"If you have never experienced Graham Fawcett, you have missed something. His childlike enthusiasm for the greats of the canon is the motor that drives through his two-part, two-hour monologues to a journey’s end of revelation. These are not literary events for those with contemporary attention spans. Fawcett does not give it to us in bite-size chunks. These are big talks, packed full of imagination and research, and ideally suited to Samuel Taylor Coleridge . . ."   

        (John Pownall, Bridport Review , 21 January 2016)




"Many thanks. A real tour de force last night. We looked on in wonder as, every inch the ancient mariner windswept and bowsprit, keel-hauled by the tides of knowledge, you peeled back the past and revealed a young troubled heart, skimming stones along the back of the Otter. . .

  (James Crowden, Crewkerne, Somerset, at Coleridge Night, West Bay, Dorset, 21 January 2016)






Dante Alighieri


Dante's Inferno



Dante Alighieri, by Giotto di Bondone, Florence (14th century)     

“an electrifying evening . . . the atmosphere was tremendous”                     Irena Hill, Dante Night in Greenwich, Autumn 2016




  “Dante and Shakespeare divide the modern world between them; there is no third”, declared T S Eliot in his 1929 essay on the poet.  Dante’s masterpiece, The Divine Comedy is a 14,000-line verse narrative of heart-stopping brilliance, written in terza rima, the beguiling aba bcb cdc rhyme scheme which he had invented. It tells the apparently autobiographical story of how, at Easter in the year 1300, Dante had set out, with the ghost of the Roman poet Virgil as his guide, on a life-changing journey which led him down into Hell, up the mountain of Purgatory to the Earthly Paradise, and beyond.


Halfway through the lifetime of our years

I came to, in a dark and sombre wood -

the path I should be on had disappeared.


I'd say what it was like there if I could;

that wood, it was so wild and harsh and bleak

the fear comes back, it cannot be withstood;


such dread, that death is not much more to take:

remembering, though, the good there that I saw,

of other things I found there I will speak.


How I first came there I am still not sure,

I was so full of sleep about the time

I left the true way I had walked before.

But then I came to where a hill's incline

meant I had through the valley come at last

which had so pierced with fear this heart of mine,

looked up, and saw along the hillside's crest

a raiment laid of that same planet's rays

which guides men, as they journey, east and west.

The fear, a little, then began to ease

which had already made me - in the lake

my heart became that night - so piteous.

And as a man emerging from the waves,

out of their reach, gasping for breath, on shore,

turns to the perilous ocean, stands agape,

so did my mind, still fleeing, still unsure,

turn round for one more glance back at the pass

no living soul had left alive before.

 Dante Alighieri, Inferno, canto 1, lines 1-27

 translated from the Italian by Graham Fawcett




Image: Gustav Dore, Dante in the Dark Wood



Seven Olympians 6


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Emily Dickinson


It was a brilliant session this evening - now I'm all fired up to read and re-read Emily D.

        (Moira Wilson, after Emily Dickinson Night in Lewes)

Another fascinating lecture last night. Thank you.  Emily Dickinson has not left me. Both her personality and her life story are intriguing. She has an economy of language in her poems which I love.  Thank you so much for bringing her to my attention.

         (Member of the audience at Emily Dickinson Night in Lewes)

The Emily Dickinson trail may lead to barely concealed clues of grief in love, the shadow of her more public than domestic father, and many a mystery, but it is first and foremost a strangely

uplifting tale of the triumph of personal choice against all the odds.

Already at the age of 25, though lively, funny and good company, she was saying, 'I don't go from home unless emergency leads me by the hand'.

The result of her decision to stay at home was a redoubling of her creative output, which built up a total of 1775 extraordinary poems discovered stitched in neat bundles in a drawer at her death . . .

I have never seen "Volcanoes"—
But, when Travellers tell
How those old—phlegmatic mountains
Usually so still—

Bear within—appalling Ordnance,
Fire, and smoke, and gun,
Taking Villages for breakfast,
And appalling Men—

If the stillness is Volcanic
In the human face
When upon a pain Titanic
Features keep their place—

If at length the smouldering anguish
Will not overcome—
And the palpitating Vineyard
In the dust, be thrown?

If some loving Antiquary,
On Resumption Morn,
Will not cry with joy "Pompeii"!
To the Hills return!

“A really excellent evening, much enjoyed and appreciated by all those who have been in touch since. People were rapt, attentive and enthusiastic".       

             (Liza Bingley Miller after Emily Dickinson Night in York)



"Thank you for another compelling lecture. There is a certain new slant of light in which I 
now look at Emily Dickinson's poetry, thanks to your inspired evocation of her as a woman 
of great strength, even volcanic power." 

          (Romée Tilanus, Emily Dickinson Night in the City of London)

"A wonderful evening of Emily Dickinson. A huge success". 

            (Katrina Dennison, at Emily Dickinson Night in Farnham)


Emily Dickinson drafted this poem on the interior of an envelope that had been addressed to her sister, Lavinia. The unusual shape of the paper underscores the drama in this late poem. (The Morgan Library and Museum, New York)



A Pang is more conspicuous in Spring
In contrast with the things that sing
Not Birds entirely – but Minds –
And Winds – Minute Effulgencies
When what they sung for is undone
Who cares about a Blue Bird's Tune –
Why, Resurrection had to wait
Till they had moved a Stone –


A Pang is more conspicuous in Spring
Poem, ca. 1881
Amherst College Archives & Special Collections



World Poets series of lecture-performances-with-readings


by Graham Fawcett


World Poets


John Donne

John Donne died in 1631 and, although his poetry did not quite die with him, it took more than 250 years for a full-scale resurrection.


Then in 1899, that inspirational Cornishman and critic Arthur Symons, a friend of Toulouse-Lautrec and W B Yeats, sounded the first real trumpet: “Donne’s quality of passion is unique in English poetry”, he wrote. “It is a rapture in which the mind is supreme, a reasonable rapture . . . This lover loves with his whole nature”.


If that didn’t tip the nation back to loving Donne, T S Eliot’s stirring essay on The Metaphysical Poets in 1919 certainly did: “A thought to Donne was an experience”, said Eliot. “It modified his sensibility”.

Suddenly there was a bridge linking reason and passion. People could feel befriended by Donne in their life’s confusions, and Donne’s own standing has endured ever since as one of England’s greatest national poetic treasures.   



Donne is still very much alive today in more ways than one.


His declaration “Be thine own palace, or the world's thy jail” has lost none of its thwack.


Nor has his sympathetic warning to our exaggerated self-sufficiency or sense of disconnectedness, “No man is an island, entire of itself.” 


And then, just before Christmas, came this discovery, described by its finder as ‘wonderful and exciting’, in a box at an English country house:

John Donne The Melford Hall manuscript £200,000 - 300,000 (ii)

The Melford Hall manuscript of Donne’s poetry


BUSIE old fool, unruly Sun,
        Why dost thou thus,
Through windows, and through curtains, call on us ?
Must to thy motions lovers' seasons run ?
        Saucy pedantic wretch, go chide
        Late school-boys and sour prentices,
    Go tell court-huntsmen that the king will ride,
    Call country ants to harvest offices ;
Love, all alike, no season knows nor clime,
Nor hours, days, months, which are the rags of time.

“When a friend asked me the other day, Who was the poet you first fell in love with? I had to pause a moment. Poetry meant very little to me when I was young. I loved getting lost in novels; I learned how to think by reading and acting in plays.  And thinking, especially when tethered to feeling, was fun. But poems weren't yet alive for me; I didn't know what to do with them. Until, that is, I encountered the poems of John Donne”.

(Linda Gregerson, Poetry Society of America – her story continues at https://www.poetrysociety.org/psa/poetry/crossroads/old_school/page_1/)




World Poets


Robert Frost

Robert Frost is an extraordinary poet of nature and the land but, to borrow a phrase from an early Seamus Heaney poem, he also knows “the door into the dark” and is ready to go through it. “I loved Robert Frost”, said Heaney in his 1995 Nobel lecture, “for his farmer's accuracy and his wily down-to-earthness; and Chaucer too for much the same reasons”.


Robert Frost revealed early on a compelling originality of voice which uses an apparently effortless double gift of metrical rhythms and sudden drama (as does Dickinson) to celebrate country life with a memorably direct simplicity and pathos. He started writing poetry only four years after Emily Dickinson died in 1886, and was still going strong in 1961, reading a poem at President Kennedy’s inauguration.  On Frost’s death, Kennedy hailed him for “a body of imperishable verse from which Americans will forever gain joy and understanding”. Not only Americans.


No psychology”, Frost told his Paris Review interviewer in 1960, “will ever tell you who needs a whip and who needs a spur to win races . . . I look at a poem as a performance. I look on the poet as a man of prowess, just like an athlete. He’s a performer. And the things you can do in a poem are very various. You speak of figures, tones of voice varying all the time. I’m always interested, you know, when I have three or four stanzas, in the way I lay the sentences in them. I’d hate to have the sentences all lie the same in the stanzas. Every poem is like that: some sort of achievement in performance”.



“No tears in the writer, no tears in the reader. No surprise in the writer, no surprise in the reader.”

Robert Frost, The Figure A Poem Makes (1939)





World Poets - Thomas Hardy



Thomas Hardy, poet

Thomas Hardy became a poet because of Queen Victoria. Born in 1840, three years after her accession, Hardy the great Victorian novelist hit on a drastic way of dealing with the tsunami of Victorian moral and critical outrage which greeted both Tess and Jude The Obscure: he turned his back on fiction and his already prolific life of fourteen novels and three books of short stories, and dramatically re-invented himself at the age of 55 as the poet he had really always been since writing – in his 20s - many poems he had never published. The death of his first wife Emma in 1912 led directly to the best poetry Hardy ever wrote.

By the time of his death in 1928, Hardy had some ten collections and nearly a thousand poems to his name, some of them acknowledged now as among the finest in English: from the beautifully momentous scena of the aged bird in ‘The Darkling Thrush’ whose song at dusk Hardy imagined heralding the new century against all the odds, through wonderful love poems, like ‘Beeny Cliff’ and ‘Thoughts of Phena’ in which he is crafting dynamic cameos of women in the West Country from Dorset to Cornwall, to the robustly virtuoso pacing in his parable-like re-staging of the encounter of the Titanic and the iceberg in ‘The Convergence of the Twain’.

Hardy the poet was an outstanding technician of every aspect of poetic music from the placing of a syllable to the architecture of a stanza. He also carried on into his poetry his novelist-self’s unflinching expeditions into the world’s darkness, demonstrating in verse too a healing power in constructive and steadfast pessimism on a par with the catharsis we take away from an evening at the Greek tragic theatre, calling his poems ‘explorations of reality’.

There is to this day real comfort and endless pleasure to be had from the visionary and romantic qualities of so much of Hardy’s poetry, his sustained marriage of treasured poetic traditions with thrilling experiment, the narrative vividness of his Wessex settings wild and rustic, and the eurhythmic wonders composed by his unerring ear.






World Poets

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Seamus Heaney

Graham Fawcett reflects on the exhilarating range of Heaney’s achievement over more than fifty years, from his momentous poetic début in 1966 with Death of A Naturalist, poems about his early life in rural Northern Ireland in which he sings with passion, craft and clarity about the world within a world around him.

Nobel Prize laureate in 1995, and outstanding translator of Beowulf and other poems and plays from the ancient and medieval worlds, Heaney wrote more than twenty books of poetry and criticism. Hailed since his death and before it as the finest Irish poet since Yeats, Heaney’s stirring legacy is that of a man whose abiding concern was to sing simply and wonderfully of Ireland, her language and history, and the crafts and customs of a rural heritage past and present, and who did not flinch from making the suffering of modern Ireland his poet’s business.

After Heaney’s death in 2013, the Poet Laureate, Carol Ann Duffy, said that for his "brothers and sisters in poetry … he came to be the poet we all measured ourselves against and he demonstrated the true vocational nature of his art for every moment of his life. He is irreplaceable." Many poets spoke too of his enduring generosity towards others and the unassuming manner and lightness of touch with which he welcomed all who came across him. When Graham Fawcett met Seamus Heaney at Little Gidding in 2009 and happened to mention to him that the first reading course he gave to Poetry School audiences in London from 1998 was called Heaney to Homer and Back, Heaney said, ‘I’m glad you came back’.  



The most unexpected and miraculous thing in my life was the arrival in it of poetry itself – as a vocation and an elevation almost.

Seamus Heaney, in ‘The Art of Poetry No.75, interviewed by Henri Cole in The Paris Review, Autumn 1997, no. 144





World Poets - Gerard Manley Hopkins



     Gerard Manley Hopkins in 1866, detail from a photo by Thomas C. Bayfield. National Portrait Gallery




On the eleventh of May 1868, the 24-year-old Gerard Manley Hopkins set fire to his early poems. Having just decided to become a priest, he believed that writing poetry – and therefore being an individual – was in conflict with his duty to God.

Years passed, and he resisted an agonising desire to write. That we have such wonderful poems from him at all is thanks to three minor miracles: his discovery in 1872 of a medieval Scottish philosopher-theologian who revealed to him that what individual human beings knew directly was all that they could know; his learning, in 1874, of Welsh; and the intervention of a fellow-priest, sympathetic to Hopkins’s dilemma, who in 1875 placed a newspaper article before him about the shipwreck, off the coast of Harwich, of 157 people, including five Franciscan nuns who were fleeing the country’s severe anti-Catholic laws, and asked: “Why don’t you write a poem about it?”

The news shocked Hopkins back into poetry, the result not only a masterpiece but the renaissance of his poetry-writing life. All else follows from that moment, including some of the other poems for which he is loved to this day, like ‘Pied Beauty’ and ‘Harry Ploughman’, ‘Binsey Poplars’, ‘God’s Grandeur’, ‘Spring’ and that other contender for greatest Hopkins poem, ‘The Windhover’.

Several of these will feature in Hopkins Night alongside stories of the poet’s love for music, Pindar and Aeschylus, Herbert, Coleridge and Wordsworth; a demonstration of the intricate mysteries of the Sprung Rhythm he famously invented; and illustrations of the remarkable effect he had on Seamus Heaney and other poets of the 20th century which Hopkins, extraordinarily, reads as though he lived in.




World Poets


Ted Hughes


Ted Hughes, Poet Laureate, one of the twentieth century’s finest English poets or poets writing in Eglish, an especially original voice, died on the 28th of October 1998 at the age of 68. Since his death, and now again at the start of this month, in which the 20th anniversary of his death will fall, we can also think of him in the company of the older voices he loved, allowed himself to be guided by, and in some respects took over from. In a tribute to Ted at the funeral service in the North Devon village where he lived for nearly forty years, Seamus Heaney unerringly placed him in that wider pantheon of the millennium.

     “His England is now the England of Langland, Shakespeare and Hopkins”, Seamus Heaney said. Ted Hughes had become an honoured part of the span of English poetry from William Langland’s early work about the land, Piers Plowman, across six hundred years to Gerard Manley Hopkins and so into our own time.





World Poets

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Posthumous portrait of John Keats by William Hilton. National Portrait Gallery, London

John Keats 200

marking the poet's annus mirabilis of 1819 and mensis mirabilis of

May in that year, the time of the great Odes



We think we know the 24-year-old who made the nightingale as much a watchword of our eternal earthly wonders as that bird’s own song has always been. But do we?

We may yet have the pleasure of knowing what it must have been like to open an envelope from probably the greatest letter-writer in the English language.

And what a life-story !

Yet in the face of never-ending family and physical challenges, Keats was fearlessly, tirelessly, hungrily creative on the page.

So here on Keats Night we will meet again a young man dead at 25 whose sonnets can stand alongside Shakespeare’s, whose great Odes are superlative and unspeakably exciting, and the sheer beauty of whose lyrical gift has seldom been surpassed by anyone in any language before or since. “There was”, said Joseph Severn, who was with him when he died in Rome, “a strong bias of the beautiful side of humanity in everything he did.”




Ode on Melancholy








No, no, go not to Lethe, neither twist 
       Wolf's-bane, tight-rooted, for its poisonous wine; 
Nor suffer thy pale forehead to be kiss'd 
       By nightshade, ruby grape of Proserpine; 
               Make not your rosary of yew-berries, 
       Nor let the beetle, nor the death-moth be 
               Your mournful Psyche, nor the downy owl 
A partner in your sorrow's mysteries; 
       For shade to shade will come too drowsily, 
               And drown the wakeful anguish of the soul. 

But when the melancholy fit shall fall 
       Sudden from heaven like a weeping cloud, 
That fosters the droop-headed flowers all, 
       And hides the green hill in an April shroud; 
Then glut thy sorrow on a morning rose, 
       Or on the rainbow of the salt sand-wave, 
               Or on the wealth of globed peonies; 
Or if thy mistress some rich anger shows, 
       Emprison her soft hand, and let her rave, 
               And feed deep, deep upon her peerless eyes. 

She dwells with Beauty—Beauty that must die; 
       And Joy, whose hand is ever at his lips 
Bidding adieu; and aching Pleasure nigh, 
       Turning to poison while the bee-mouth sips: 
Ay, in the very temple of Delight 
       Veil'd Melancholy has her sovran shrine, 
               Though seen of none save him whose strenuous tongue 
       Can burst Joy's grape against his palate fine; 
His soul shalt taste the sadness of her might, 
               And be among her cloudy trophies hung. 




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Joseph Severn, earliest surviving portrait of John Keats, 1816





World Poets - D H Lawrence, poet

World Poets series of lecture-performances-with-readings



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D H Lawrence, poet

   This evening is for all of you who read and love poetry, whether or not you have yet discovered D H Lawrence as a poet and not only as the author of Sons and Lovers, The Rainbow and other novels.

    If you have ever read a poem by him, the chances are that it may well have been the unforgettable early portrait, in word, picture and sound, of Lawrence remembering a woman playing a piano, or maybe the intensely relived-moment-by-moment drama of a snake in Sicily, or, perhaps especially, the extraordinary late poem – one of his finest - which takes the idea of Bavarian gentians and extends it into the underworld lives of Persephone and Pluto as though that link were the most natural thing in the world and implicit in the flower. It opens:

Not every man has gentians in his house

in soft September, at slow, sad Michaelmas.


Bavarian gentians, big and dark, only dark

darkening the day-time, torch-like with the smoking blueness of Pluto’s gloom,

ribbed and torch-like, with their blaze of darkness spread blue

down flattening into points, flattened under the sweep of white day

torch-flower of the blue-smoking darkness, Pluto’s dark-blue daze,

black lamps from the halls of Dis, burning dark blue,

giving off darkness, blue darkness, as Demeter’s pale lamps give off light,

lead me then, lead the way . . .

     But then Lawrence, who called his 1920-23 collection Birds, Beasts and Flowers, was eminently a poet of nature (among many who came after, Hughes and Plath both admired him for it) and so much more than that.



The dawn was apple-green,

The sky was green wine held up in the sun,

The moon was a golden petal between.


She opened her eyes, and green

They shone, clear like flowers undone

For the first time, now for the first time seen.




“It's no good trying to get rid of your own aloneness. You've got to stick to it all your life. Only at times, at times, the gap will be filled in. At times! But you have to wait for the times. Accept your own aloneness and stick to it, all your life. And then accept the times when the gap is filled in, when they come. But they've got to come. You can't force them.” 

D H Lawrence, Lady Chatterley's Lover (1928)



“We [the audience] were more than happy to stay the course, stunned and astonished in equal measure. Stunned by the breadth and depth of Fawcett’s criticism, astonished at our luck to be living miles from a university yet participating in what, to all intents and purposes, was a post-graduate lecture, presented with immaculate complexity by a master of ceremonies par-excellence.”                          Elaine Beckett (Bridport Review)








World Poets



Shakespeare the Poet




This recently discovered portrait of William Shakespeare - its very existence first announced to the world in March 2009 - is believed to be the only one painted in his lifetime. Our imagination’s batteries are uniquely re-charged as we finally look into his face for the first time and feel compelled to ask ourselves afresh so many things about him. Here's one: to what extent did the author of the Sonnets feel he was writing poems in his plays as though momentarily staging a poetry recital of set pieces to hold an audience’s breath in mid-drama?

Shakespeare left plenty of answers. Yes, they are there to be uncovered the moment one begins to explore the Sonnets, the longer poems ‘Venus and Adonis’ and ‘The Rape of Lucrece’, ‘The Passionate Pilgrim’ and ‘Verses in Love’s Martyr’. But like steeplechase clues, they can also be come upon time and again, and often in spectacular fashion, along the pathways of his theatre, at key moments in the lyrical plays, the tragedies and the late Romances, and sometimes for whole plays on end. “Richard II is a chunk of poetry about a god who wants to be a person", Fiona Shaw declared the other month on the Andrew Marr Show.

When Postumus says to Imogen, “Hang there like fruit, my soul, /till the tree die” in Act Five Scene five of Cymbeline, the audience is in the presence of one of the best line-breaks in poetry.

Yet when we go to see a Shakespeare play, the unfolding narrative, the constant impact of the action, and the naturalness of the verse as speech so take our minds off what Shakespeare is doing with it poetically, that much of the sheer craft of it simply sails over our heads.

In this brand new lecture, specially commissioned from Graham Fawcett by the Bridport Literary Festival, he will attempt to hook that craft down out of the sky and hold it up to the audience. It will tell us, with an abundance of compelling examples from the Works, what distinguishes Shakespeare the poet from Shakespeare the dramatist, how the sonnets work, what relation there is between the longer poems and the plays, and where in particular the plays, in a stop-you-in-your-tracks way, become poetry.




Image: the Cobbe portrait controversially and confidently claimed by the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust to be of Willam Shakespeare

Now read on . . .

(a completely different night from World Poets - William Shakespeare above)


Poetry Readings with Commentary - William Shakespeare-

The latest in this warmly welcomed new series of poetry readings with commentary


by Graham Fawcett

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William Shakespeare Night


Our astonishment at Sladers' Yard on discovering, even before the end of September, that Graham's 2016 Bridport Literary Festival Sunday lunchtime lecture Shakespeare The Poet on November 6th had already sold out, led to a happy New Idea.


Because the news just happened to coincide with a particularly warm reception given by a 40+ strong Sladers' Yard audience to the first evening in a new kind of poetry night, Graham's Poetry Reading With Commentary, Poets of New York, on September 29th.


So we decided, there and then, to combine these two exciting developments by making a new night including both, a different William Shakespeare Night, as the next in this new Poetry Readings With Commentary series.


This new William Shakespeare Night will draw on completely different highlights from those which will feature in Graham’s Shakespeare The Poet Festival lecture. This guarantee is not a tall order, of course, when you have the Complete Works to play with !


So Graham will intersperse different sonnets and scenes from the long poems with fresh moments of high poetic drama from the plays, a combination which - incredible as it may seem, and even though the results can be every bit as illuminating for a Shakespeare-loving audience as they are exciting - is not often attempted in the theatre, and very seldom on the page.


Ted Hughes is one of those who have wondered why on earth this should be so. In fact, in the introduction to his William Shakespeare selection, he talks of "the reluctance of anthologists to break into the sacred precincts of his drama and start looting portable chunks from the holy structures", when in fact a Shakespeare play speech on its own "is something else, read in less than a minute, learned in less than five, still wonderful, and a pure bonus".


This quite different Shakespeare night will offer one fresh opportunity after another to step effortlessly, in the imagination, from the private chamber of confidential feeling that is the sonnet, through the dream-like poetic and dramatic labyrinths of Venus & Adonis and The Rape of Lucrece, to the great open uplands, plains, forests, deep valleys, and breached private chambers of the plays, where lives are made and broken, light and shadow face up to, and even fall into, each other, and the boundaries of the possible are pushed back to well beyond the tide-lines of our own lives but always heading for the horizons of our hopes, fears, and desires.


Like a magician who never sleeps, the poetic engine is the creating hand, ever-present, ticking its resonant rhythm, strong as an ox, bending as bough or reed, as vulnerable and as self-delivering as a weaving, dipping, soaring bird flying straight, coming back, and setting off again carrying words of the greatest nourishment from the beginnings and ends of every line to the nests of our ever-waiting hearts.



World Poets - Sir Gawain and the Green Knight


Whole-page image: from early MS of the poem, in the British Library, published by The Cotton Nero A. X Project, hosted by the University of Calgary. See more at: http://britishlibrary.typepad.co.uk/digitisedmanuscripts/2012/08/sir-gawain-and-the-green-knight-online.html#sthash.mNAjttcL.dpuf

Sir Gawain and the Green Knight


When a huge stranger enters the main hall in Camelot during a banquet and invites any of the assembly there to take a single swipe at him with his own axe, in return for a similar swipe at them in the future, he has no volunteers.

Gawain finally accepts the challenge because, he says, he is the youngest and so his life was the least indispensable of all those present. The Knight bows his neck, Gawain raises the axe and decapitates the Knight with his single blow; whereupon the Knight picks up his head, confirms a return meeting with Gawain a year and a day from thence, tucks his head under his arm, re-mounts his horse, and rides off into the murk.

Aye, and what then? How the story, the intricate plot, opens up from then on is at the heart of this poem’s unique edge-of-seat, extraordinarily modern brilliance.  





World Poets - Dylan Thomas

with Graham Fawcett



“When one burns one's bridges, what a very nice fire it makes.”      

(Dylan Thomas)


    My first discovery of Dylan came from was reading ‘Fern Hill’ aloud pacing the room and hoping that some of the pastoral Dylan stardust -  ‘honoured among wagons’ and ‘prince’ of the (Welsh) ‘apple towns’ - might rub off on a Londoner. The second was to glimpse, through a rain-spattered bus window just outside Laugharne in West Wales, the white boathouse where he wrote.

    Dylan happens to people like that, steals up on them so that they have to drink his poems with him and he buys all the rounds. We recall instantly the sound of the poet’s indelible voice on record. I can remember meeting, at the 1970 Poets’ Conference at Cardiff’s Railway Hotel, a roomful of poets who had known him. The legend through the poems makes Dylan a ‘total immersion’ read: he sang as he heard, and what he heard was extraordinary.




World Poets - Edward Thomas

“When first I came here I had hope,
Hope for I knew not what. Fast beat
My heart at the sight of the tall slope
Or grass and yews, as if my feet

Only by scaling its steps of chalk
Would see something no other hill
Ever disclosed . . . ”


wrote Edward Thomas on moving to a new home in Kent, in lines which catch his wonderful lyrical voice as a poet of nature. But might the ‘what’ and the ‘something’ also be the poetry he had discovered he could write (thanks to the prompting of Robert Frost) only three years before he died in action at Arras?


Walter de la Mare said Thomas’s aim had been “to express the truth about himself and his reality”. This throws light on how poetry suddenly surfaced in him: it was there all the time, in the glorious pastoral eloquence of his prose in praise of place and nature.


“Gently as the alighting of a bird, the sunlight dropped among the tops of the oaks, which were yellow and purple with young leaves, and blessed them”, he wrote in The Heart of England. And when he says of W H Hudson that ‘what he reverences and loves is the earth”, he is also talking about himself.


“First soldier, and then poet, and then both/, Who died a soldier-poet of your race”, declared Robert Frost in his tribute poem to Thomas. “I knew”, wrote Frost, “from the moment when I first met him at his unhappiest that he would some day clear his mind and save his life”.









The World Poets series of lecture-performances-with-readings

by Graham Fawcett

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Walt Whitman 200

2019 celebration of the bicentenary of Whitman's birth on 31st May 1819


“My tongue, every atom of my blood, form’d from this soil, this air,

Born here of parents born here from parents the same, and their parents the same . . .”

                            (Walt Whitman, of his birth in Long Island, in ‘Song of Myself’, from Leaves of Grass, 1855)



‘When Lilacs Last In The Dooryard Bloom’ is one of the most memorable titles in all poetry, and it helps to remind us how early Whitman was. Born in 1819, he wrote this deeply moving work in the dramatic double aftermath of President Lincoln’s assassination in 1865 and the end of the American Civil War.

The poem appeared in the 1865 edition of Whitman’s masterpiece collection, Leaves of Grass. With that book, Whitman had revolutionised what American poetry could say (poets could sing about what they felt it was like to be alive as never before), how it could look on the page (long-limbed, rhapsodic and free), and how it could sound in the reading ear - orchestral, psalmic and incantatory.  Many poets since, on both sides of the Atlantic, including Gerard Manley Hopkins, Oscar Wilde, D H Lawrence and Pablo Neruda, and several composers too, Vaughan Williams and Delius first among them, have found new solace for the spirit in this great voice.


In my experience, readers – and listeners - love Whitman for his extraordinary musical gifts as a poet and for his invigorating wisdom which sheds light on our lives left, right and centre as though he had been passing our house and stopped to talk to us through the window.

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What better figurehead in these times than Whitman, who loved men and women, but most deeply men, can we find in the poetry of the past to keep us company now as our fought-for freedoms mean men do and will love men, women love women, and gender is at last an open garden to wander in just as we like, fearless ?

“This is what you shall do; Love the earth and sun and the animals, despise riches, give alms to every one that asks, stand up for the stupid and crazy, devote your income and labor to others, hate tyrants, argue not concerning God, have patience and indulgence toward the people, take off your hat to nothing known or unknown or to any man or number of men, go freely with powerful uneducated persons and with the young and with the mothers of families, read these leaves in the open air every season of every year of your life, re-examine all you have been told at school or church or in any book, dismiss whatever insults your own soul, and your very flesh shall be a great poem and have the richest fluency not only in its words but in the silent lines of its lips and face and between the lashes of your eyes and in every motion and joint of your body.”

There’ll be much more like that on Whitman Night. Especially from his poetry:

  I have no chair, no church, no philosophy, 
  I lead no man to a dinner-table, library, or exchange, 
  But each man and each woman of you I lead upon a knoll, 
  My left hand hooks you round the waist, 
  My right hand points to landscapes of continents and the public road.

 Not I, not any one else can travel that road for you, 
 You must travel it for yourself.

  It is not far, it is within reach, 
  Perhaps you have been on it since you were born and did not know, 
  Perhaps it is every where on water and on land”.



“Beautiful reading”. (Jan Woods, Whitman Night in Hackney, October 2017)



World Poets series of lecture-performances-with-readings


by Graham Fawcett

a brand new lecture now being added to the series

William Wordsworth

William Wordsworth has come to be thought of as Wordsworthy, as though he were always the older man with a face like a sober civic worthy who just happened to have a decent poem about daffodils, and an odd-looking closeness to his sister, in his distant past.


Such is the crassness and impoverishment of feeding on crumbs from biography’s sumptuous table and then not reading the life, let alone the poetry, at all.


The true worth of Wordsworth, which can be grasped by seeing him as a man of action, is often simply ignored. His record as man and poet until at least his mid-thirties is captivating. At the ages of 20 and 22, he was twice in France during the Revolution, was politically active, and fathered a love-child. Before he was 30, he had become at least half of the driving force and vigorous inspiration for the greatest revolution in poetry that England has ever known, and helped Coleridge get started on his ‘Rime of the Ancient Mariner’.  That his sister Dorothy helped Wordsworth write and live and be is beyond doubt.


On the page he is a man of elemental and fertile stamina: his vast autobiographical masterpiece The Prelude is one of the most beautiful, engrossing, accomplished, sustained, expansive and invigorating poems in our, or any other, language.  It is among the finest examples ever of the grace-giving power of nature, the recoverable buried treasure of memory, and the utterly engaging companionability of commentary as he makes space for us to walk beside him.


The Prelude’s accounts of crossing the Alps and climbing Snowdon make it so much harder for us not to go and do them both for ourselves, and look sharp about it. His famous stealing of a boat under cover of night and taking it out on a lake is pretty contagious too:


Straight I unloosed her chain, and stepping in

Pushed from the shore. It was an act of stealth

And troubled pleasure, nor without the voice

Of mountain-echoes did my boat move on;

Leaving behind her still, on either side,

Small circles glittering idly in the moon,

Until they melted all into one track

Of sparkling light . . .



What happened next is one of the most deliciously haunting moments in all poetry.


Wordsworth’s absolute devotion to his beloved Lake District is a luminous celebration of the vital spirit of place and how to express deep gratitude for belonging there. What is more, Wordsworth’s at-first-sight-formidable output is embraceable as we walk and climb, stop, look, listen, breathe and feel with him everywhere he goes; and that very act of being in his company becomes empowering of the heart and mind to be newly in the world and in our own remembrances more fully than ever before.




The World Poets series of lecture-performances-with-readings


World Poets


W B Yeats

W B Yeats sang in the name of an ancient Ireland. His passionate study of mysticism and the supernatural fired his active involvement in a movement for the revival of Celtic identity, a poetic currency of Irish fairies, dreams, and the melancholy of decay. He cherished folk-tales, celebrating them in his verse as vitally as he did the history of his own times.



Born in Dublin in 1865, six hundred years after the birth of Dante, and the winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1923, Yeats was one of the two greatest poets of the twentieth century writing in English. But where did Yeats’ s voice, and his extraordinary lyrical gift, come from? Yeats Night will look for answers while reviving some of the poet’s greatest work.


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Yeats goes on being loved. To this day, the manner of his guiding hand to us is gifted with the common touch, so that we are glad to have listened not only to the poet who tells us he will “arise and go now and go to Innisfree” but urges us to do so now, too: “Do not wait to strike till the iron is hot”, he wrote, “but make it hot by striking”.



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“Yeats matters today in the way that Shakespeare or Jonson or Dickinson matter. . . He's inseparable from what we understand the medium of the English language is capable of producing on the page.”    (James Longenbach, 1988)



“Thanks for that fine talk (performance, more like) on Yeats this evening. It was like being invited to dance along with both Yeats, his poems, and your vision of both. And like all good dances, it leaves one exhausted and exhilarated, and ready for more. And so I look forward to Donne coming along soon”.      (Robert-Louis Abrahamson, Dorset, 2018) 




Poetry and the Soul

a three-day poetry retreat

to book this retreat for your own venue, contact Graham at the address at the top of the home page   





A retreat on which we will read together the words of beloved spiritual poets, especially George Herbert, RS Thomas, Elizabeth Jennings and Mary Oliver.

This is an opportunity to hear the poems deeply, reflect on them, and, if and when we wish to, share the insights they encourage in us. It is very much a reading together, and not an academic exercise, so you’re not expected to analyse poems in a literary way. Instead, we can concern ourselves simply with the ways poetry can speak to our deepest selves.



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                                                             George Herbert at Bemerton by William Dyce (1860)


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                                                             Elizabeth Jennings


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                                                            R S Thomas

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                                                            Mary Oliver






Poetry readings with commentary series




               Walt Whitman

            Federico Garcia Lorca

     Edna St Vincent Millay


                           W H Auden


                  Marianne Moore


                e e cummings



and Dylan Thomas at the White Horse Tavern in Hudson Street


Poets of New York


A special evening reading from, and commentary on, some of the finest poets to have lived, stayed and worked in the Big Apple: including remarkable and memorable poems by Walt Whitman, Federico Garcia Lorca, Edna St Vincent Millay, Dylan Thomas, W H Auden, Marianne Moore, and e e cummings.


Graham was in New York last summer finding out about these poets and their lives and work in the City, teaching their poetry, tracking down their homes and work-places and lecturing with, and talking to, Americans about them.


Featuring different poems from those already included in the Dylan Thomas and W H Auden nights.




It is while walking the streets of Manhattan and Brooklyn that a new clarity can often offer answers to why

Walt Whitman loved ferries, the sea, and his fellow human beings with such democratic passion;

Edna St Vincent Millay was so movingly and dramatically at home in the sonnet;

e e cummings was so fired up by life in Greenwich Village and his love of art that his strange new typographical experiments became urgent;

Marianne Moore felt so strongly about unusual animals with thick skins, baseball matches, and New York’s greatest-ever literary magazine, The Dial, which she edited with such distinction (Picasso and D H Lawrence were among her earliest contributors); W H Auden moved there in January 1939, what he memorably tells us he encountered, how he stayed for a decade writing himself back to faith and producing major verse homages to Yeats and Freud;

Federico Garcia Lorca landed there in the late 20s and was thrilled and horrified into a startlingly surreal poetry at the heart of which was his eye-witness rhapsody in black on the Wall Street Crash;

and Dylan Thomas returned there again and again to increasingly thunderous acclaim culminating in the triumph there of his Under Milk Wood, which cummings was so moved by that he walked the streets afterwards in tears.


Graham Fawcett gave lectures and seminars on these poets in New York in late June and wandered her streets in early July of 2016. Unsuspected veils kept on dropping from the poems they had written there as the place not only gave them a frame but shot through with new light the content of so many of their pages. Poets of New York Night is his story of that experience.







World Poets



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Luis de Góngora, in a portrait by Diego Velázquez.




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Lorca and the Poetry of Spain


Federico García Lorca found his poetic mentors in Andalusia among those who wrote folk poetry or had once, in the distant past, written poems in Arabic and Hebrew, as well as in medieval love poetry, the magnificent Gongora and Garcilaso, Generations of 1898 and 1927, and Granada.

Graham Fawcett traces Lorca’s extraordinary voice back to the 11th century and forward to listen to the irresistible sounds and rhythms of Spanish poetry’s treasure-trove which helped make Lorca the poet he became.

Federico García Lorca

Casida de la rosa

La rosa
no buscaba la aurora:
casi eterna en su ramo,
buscaba otra cosa.

La rosa,
no buscaba ni ciencia ni sombra:
confín de carne y sueño,
buscaba otra cosa.

La rosa,
no buscaba la rosa.
Inmóvil por el cielo
buscaba otra cosa.

Federico García Lorca

Casida of the rose


The rose

was not looking for dawn:

almost perpetual on its bough,

it was looking for something else.


The rose

was not looking for knowledge or shadow:

boundary of flesh and dream,

it was looking for something else.


The rose

it was not looking for the rose.

It was looking for something else,

motionless, in the sky.


Translated by Michael Smith, in Federico García Lorca, The Tamarit Poems, Dedalus Press, Dublin 2002



To book this lecture for your local venue::

write to Graham Fawcett at grahamkfawcett@googlemail.com



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Inspirers of legend, their speed, depth, stirred surface and beauty imitate aliveness whose source is unknowable. Forget maps. Their flow is the more momentously traced by Hopkins, Arnold, Hughes, Coleridge, E B Browning, Rimbaud, Auden, Oswald, Wordsworth, Ashbery, Amichai; Tintoretto, Constable, Monet, Delacroix, Ricci, David Roberts, Tissot, O’Keefe, Corot, Cézanne, Seurat.

Image: Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot, Landscape with Lake and Boatman (1839) - Getty Museum, Los Angeles




















































For full week-by-week details of this fifteen-week course, designed for you to join at any point, click here at







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They feel like kin, luring us to a life we can only aspire to. We envy their freedom, breathe easy that our survival is less precarious. Hardy, Hopkins, Edward Thomas, Smart, Blake, Gray, Burns, Dickinson, Neruda, Tennyson, Clare, Baudelaire, Coleridge, Yeats; Rubens, Poussin, Géricault, Titian, Correggio, Veronese, Tintoretto; cave paintings from Spain, France, South Africa; Middle Eastern frescoes; Rothko, Holman Hunt, Burne-Jones, Snyders, Jan Brueghel, Brancusi, Rousseau, Flanagan.

Image: Théodore Géricault, White Grey Arabian Horse (c.1812), Musee des Beaux Arts, Rouen




















































For full week-by-week details of this fifteen-week course, designed for you to join at any point, click here at







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The power of life and death they have had over us from the beginning infuses any great attempt in word or image to capture the formidable forces of the four elements. We marvel at how they collaborate, recoil when they clash. Shakespeare, Wallace Stevens, T S Eliot, Woolf, Hughes, Bishop, Kavanagh; Beuckelaer, Turner, Bierstadt, Cole, Rembrandt, Klee, Tiepolo, the plein air painters.

Image: Paul Klee, Fire At Full Moon (1933), Museum Folkwang, Essen, Germany




















































For full week-by-week details of this fifteen-week course, designed for you to join at any point, click here at








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No better proof can be had of Hamlet’s “What a piece of work is a man!” than in man’s form and figure, action and passion; running, poised, in repose, the muscle of male nature is found poetic. Yeats, Rimbaud, Machado, Herbert, Lawrence, Chaucer, Pushkin, Tolstoy, Cervantes, Dickens, Austen; Rembrandt, Giacometti, Klee, Leighton, Burne-Jones, Raphael, Titian, van Eyck, Manet.

Image: Edouard Manet, Young Man Peeling a Pear (Leon Leenhoff) (1868), Nationalmuseum, Stockholm







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Unconstrained by Oscar Wilde’s “Women are made to be loved, not understood”, artists and writers create women they feel both for. Grace, beauty, strength, and the spectrum from pose to naturalness are tackled head-on by Mansfield, Farjeon, Tennyson, Shakespeare, Ovid, Byron, Joyce, Duffy, Forster, Tolstoy, Neruda, Heaney, Murasaki; Picasso, Praxiteles, Titian, Kandinsky, Millais, Watts, Vermeer, Romney, Dubuffet, Mary Cassatt, Renoir, Bonnard, Gauguin, and ancient artists.                                        Image: Mary Cassatt, The Reader (1877), Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, Bentonville, Arkansas, US


























































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Life in, and after, Eden is the elephant in the room of their encounter. Body language and the double portrait are manna to the creative appetite. Borges, Day Lewis, cummings, Muir, Shakespeare, Lawrence, John Betjeman, Shelley, Chaucer, Fitzgerald; Klimt, Holman Hunt, Rembrandt, Poussin, Martin, Bouguereau, Hamilton, Moore, Courbet, Mayan art, Matisse, Chagall, Renoir.

Image: Marc Chagall, Amoureux de St-Paul de Vence (1957)







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Seen and heard through the silence of page and canvas, the child is always who we were, and the hare of memory is set running at once. Innocence confronts vulnerability and makes conflict heart-rending and vital. Coleridge, Kipling, Eliot, Greta Stoddart, Szymborska, Thomas, Dickens, Gaskell, Hardy, Jackie Kay, Stevenson, Emerson, Longfellow, Hughes, Merwin; Elizabeth Stanhope Forbes, Moore, Millais, Moran, Rembrandt, Ernst, Sargent, Monet, Renoir, Mucha.

Image: Elizabeth Adela Forbes, School Is Out (1889), Penlee House Gallery and Museum, Penzance







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Ever since we stopped hunting and gathering, there have been settlements – by lakes, in deep country, villages, towns, cities – and dwellings set apart. But the restless spirit longs wondrously for Elsewhere. Eliot, Ibsen, Basho, Marquez, Woolf, Yeats, Chaucer, de la Mare, Humboldt, Heaney; Castiglione, Raphael, Tissot, il Grechetto, Cole, Chagall, Repin, Vermeer, Gauguin, Watteau.

Image: James Tissot, On The Thames (How Happy I Could be With Either), 1876, The Hepworth Wakefield Gallery, Wakefield, Yorkshire










The canvas and the page capture events, as they happen or happened, in a breath: war and peace, diplomacy and stand-off, the rituals of coronation and revolution, building and destruction, and their images, whether eye-witness or fantastic, all read like real history. Byron, Shakespeare, Longfellow, Virgil, Chaucer, E B Browning, Amichai, Camoens, Flaubert; Goya, David, Canaletto, Picasso, Delacroix, Rembrandt, van Dyck, Brueghel, Masaccio, Leonardo, Caravaggio, Velasquez, Uccello

Image: Eugene Delacroix, Battle of Taillebourg (1837), Palace of Versailles, France








Allegory of Painting and Sculpture, Oil by Guercino (Barbieri, Giovanni Francesco) (1591-1666, Italy)


Men and women are creators of what they write, paint and give form to. But so often their art is about creation itself: it visibly meditates on the act of imitating the original Creator or moment of coming into being, feels towards art as a whole new world. Woolf, Longfellow, Horace, Duffy, Gunn, Eliot, Auden, E Brontë, Ginsberg, Hopkins, Lawrence, Hughes, Dante; Rublyov, Martin, Constable, Raphael, Gustavo Olmedo, Watts, Hope, John Shelley, Reynolds, Piranesi, Dürer, Bosch, Guercino                                                  Image: Il Guercino (Giovanni Francesco Barbieri), The Allegory of Painting and Sculpture (1637), Galleria Nazionale di Arte Antica, Rome




















































For full week-by-week details of this fifteen-week course, designed for you to join at any point, click here at




Poetry and Violin Recital

Elizabeth Cooney                                                                   Graham Fawcett                                                               Grace Mo



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  Grace Mo, piano



Join writer and broadcaster Graham Fawcett, virtuoso violinist Elizabeth Cooney and pianist Grace Mo for an evening of poetry, prose and music. Featuring writers who were born or lived in Surrey and Hampshire, including Jane Austen, William Cobbett, Gilbert White, Tennyson, John Keats and Edward Thomas. Elizabeth and Grace will perform music inspired by the writings including The Lark Ascending by Vaughan Williams as well as pieces by Elgar and Mozart.




John Keats (1795-1821), ‘To Autumn’ (1819)


This great ode, one of Keats’s finest poems, was written in Winchester during the course of a single autumn day, Sunday 9th September 1819. (He had by now already written the great Odes to a Nightingale, a Grecian Urn, Melancholy, Psyche and Indolence, earlier in the same year). The play of light and shadow here in the energies of nature and the heart may lead you to feel that Keats is gathering his strength to say goodbye to the summer of his life – he will actually have one more – and to prepare for its winter. The intensity of word and image, and the rise and fall of the poem’s music, offer a listening experience on a par with that of hearing a short movement from a late quartet

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Tchaikovsky - Song of Autumn for Violin and Piano


William Cobbett (1763-1835), from Rural Rides (serialised 1822-26, book 1830)


Two passages from an English classic written by an Englishman who loved his country and the country: the passion, candour and sheer detail of his style are as though Pepys and Defoe had been re-born to do for Surrey, Hampshire and Sussex what they had once done for London and journalism. Cobbett is Farnham’s literary patron saint as Gilbert White is Selborne’s, with the difference that Cobbett got out more. He is a crusader for English rural tradition. His eye is a connoisseur’s, as clear and vigorous as Jonathan Swift’s, his love of what he sees David Attenboroughesque.  The first extract finds him reporting from Berghclere, which he locates as “near Newbury, Hampshire (as it was in those days), on October 30, 1821, the same day, as it happened, that Dostoyevsky was born in Moscow!

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Mozart, arr. Kreisler - Rondo in G, 'Haffner' for Violin and Piano


Gilbert White (1720-1793), from The Natural History and Antiquities of Selborne (1789)


From two letters to Thomas Pennant Esquire: Letter 1 (Selborne Surroundings) and Letter 22 (‘The Ring-Ousel and Goat-Sucker’)


It was a good day for Selborne when Gilbert White’s life came full circle back to the place where he was born, the vicarage of this village that then became his home again for more than forty years. White the bachelor curate’s enduringly best-selling book has made Selborne’s name ever since: a collection of letters he wrote from there to two kindred-spirit friends and filled with an early naturalist’s genially precise observations and affectionate nature-loving thoughts. White was an early exponent of the art of watching birds rather than simply shooting them, and his writing conjures up what must have been a true picture of a peaceful rural idyll published in the same year as the outbreak of the French Revolution.

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Persian Folk Song from 12 Persian Folk Songs for Violin and Piano  


Omar Khayyam (1048-1131), from ‘The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam’ (1120), translated by Edward Fitzgerald (1859)


We will hear the first 37 verses of this 75-verse poem, which became the most popular book after the Bible for Victorian households from the time when Fitzgerald’s famous translation of it appeared in 1859. On 13 July 1895, England’s Omar Khayyam Club held a literary dinner at the Burford Bridge Hotel near the foot of Box Hill. Among those Club members present was Thomas Hardy. 33 years later, in 1928 as he was dying, Hardy asked his wife Florence to read to him from the copy of the Rubaiyat which he had given her long before as an earnest of his love. They were the last words he ever heard.

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Ignace Pleyel - Rondo Favorit in E flat major, Ben.613 for Solo Piano



Jane Austen (1775-1817), from Emma, chapters 42 and 43 (Dec 1815)


Picnicking under the sky was felt to as romantic as the out-door English poetry of the time, a getting-back-to-nature forerunner of the special new passion among artists in the mid-19th to paint in the fresh air. Eating and ‘picture-painting’ combine in Austen’s clever dramatic cameo – one of her greatest moments - of the outing to Box Hill, as the characters we have come to know and love re-appear before us again in a flash as in newly discovered black-and-white footage: Emma Woodhouse, Mr Knightley, Miss Bates, Jane Fairfax, Mr and Mrs Elton, Harriet Smith, and Frank Churchill, here in a fluster as Emma invites him to join what will prove to be a wonderfully complicated picnic.

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Robin Adair - Scottish Air for Violin and Piano

Schubert - The Bee for Violin and Piano


Alfred Lord Tennyson (1809-1892), from ‘The Passing

of Arthur’ (1869).


It is 150 years ago this year that Tennyson, on 5 June 1867, first visited the site on Blackdown near Haslemere for what would become his new home on the Downs, Aldworth. One of Tennyson’s first acts at Aldworth was to re-write a poem dating from 1833, his ‘Morte d’Arthur’. But that poem had ended without a shred of consolation and now the older man set to work to add some. The result was ‘The Passing of Arthur’, published with Tennyson’s Idylls of the King in 1869.  We join it tonight as King Arthur, mortally wounded after his last battle with Sir Mordred, orders the knight Sir Bedivere to throw his trusty sword Excalibur into the lake, on whose shore he is now lying, thus restoring it to the lady of the lake who had originally gifted it to him.

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      Elgar - Chanson de Matin

           Chanson de Nuit for Violin and Piano


Edward Thomas (1878-1917), ‘The Lofty Sky’ (10 January 1915), ‘Haymaking’ (6-8 July 1915), ‘Aspens’ (11 July 1915)


This year marks the centenary of the death of Edward Thomas on the battlefield at Arras in France on 9th April 1917. Thomas’s best writing dates from the years when the village of Steep, near Petersfield, was his home, and it was here that he wrote all three of tonight’s poems. Persuaded by the American poet Robert Frost during the summer of 1914 that he was actually a poet but had never believed it, Thomas finally started writing poems in December 1914, and in the two years and four months left of his life wrote 144 of them. When a plaque to Thomas and fifteen other poets of the First World War was dedicated in Westminster Abbey’s Poets’ Corner in 1985, the then Poet Laureate Ted Hughes paid tribute to him as ‘the father of us all’. He meant us poets of nature.  

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Vaughan Williams - The Lark Ascending for Violin and Piano





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  Grace Mo, piano


                                 Elizabeth Cooney                                                  Graham Fawcett                                                 Grace Mo

    The LitMus Trio

It promises to be an exciting and wonderfully varied programme of poetry and music, as the LitMus Trio commemorate 2018’s centenaries of the deaths of Claude Debussy, the French poet Guillaume Apollinaire, and the Irish poet Dora Sigerson Shorter, the publication of poems by Gerard Manley Hopkins and D H Lawrence, a famous passage from a classic double-centenary 'local' poem by Keats, and W B Yeats' unrequited-love-inspired poetry to the legendary Maude Gonne, who was born in Tongham, near Farnham.

There will also be music by Vivaldi, Schumann, John Field, Liszt, Fauré, Ravel and Olivier Messaien, and from the Irish folk tradition, and one of the greatest poems by Walt Whitman, this year being 150 years since his work first appeared in England..




















































To see the full programme and to book in advance, here is the link


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Poetry and Violin Recital















Join writer and broadcaster Graham Fawcett, virtuoso violinist Elizabeth Cooney and pianist Siu Chui Li for an evening of poetry, prose and music. Featuring writers and composers who were born or lived in Surrey and Hampshire.

LitMus Trio

8 June 2019

Graham Fawcett, reader

Elizabeth Cooney, violin

Siu Chui Li, piano




John Donne (1572-1631), from ‘The Storme’ (c.1597)


When John Donne wrote, in his poem ‘The Bait’, "There will the river whisp'ring run….", he was

singing the praises of the river Wey beside the Surrey village of Pyrford where he and his young

wife Ann spent the early years of his marriage. He would have been glad, then, not only for the

water’s whisper but that he was alive at all, having nearly drowned in the Atlantic five years

earlier, his poem ‘The Storme’ proof that he didn’t make it all up. 343 years later, Bartok

survived an Atlantic crossing from Naples to New York and played his first Rhapsody on arrival.


Béla Bartók (1881-1945), Rhapsody No.1 (1928)


Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (1859-1930), The Hound of the Baskervilles


Ten years after first creating the character of Sherlock Holmes, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and his

wife moved to the Surrey village of Hindhead in 1896. J M Barrie and Virginia Woolf were among

the visitors, and it was here that he wrote The Hound of the Baskervilles, which The Strand

Magazine first published, in instalments, in 1901 and 1902. Hound is famously set on Dartmoor,

although residents of Surrey might well claim that the author’s imagination was nourished by

five years of Hindhead moons and country weather. The moon rides high in the mind’s eye of

the Czech fairy tale writers who gave Dvorak the story of his opera Rusalka, exactly

contemporary with Conan Doyle’s masterpiece; and it is given a charismatic portrait too by

Emily Dickinson.


Antonín Dvořák (1841-1904), ‘Song to the Moon’ (Rusalka, op.114)

Emily Dickinson (1830-1886), ‘The Moon Was But a Chin of Gold’


John Keats (1795-1821), ‘Ode to a Nightingale’ (1819)


The moon and the night are always with us here. John Keats wrote his ‘Ode to a Nightingale’,

two hundred years ago last month. Keats, knowing Ode as the Ancient Greek for song, intends

us to hear the human singer before we ‘see’ what he is singing at; even then, elusive as the

nightingale itself, it has a fugitive, incorporeal presence on the line. John Field beat Keats to it

by just two years with this Nocturne, written during the time he spent living in Russia.


Flora Thompson (1876-1947), from Lark Rise to Candleford (1945)


There is nothing like a furniture van or a travel-happy parent in your life to reinvigorate a sense

of place. Admired to this day for her trilogy Lark Rise to Candleford, Thompson moved - from

her childhood’s Juniper Hill, the Oxfordshire hamlet which she translated into fiction in 1939 as

Lark Rise - to work in a post office at Fringford (her future Candleford) near Bicester from age

14 to 20 before coming as a telegraph machine trainer aged 21 to Grayshott Post Office, where

regular customers included locals Conan Doyle and G B Shaw. Mozart age 22 wrote his E minor

sonata while in Paris, by which time his father had already taken him, from age 6, on the road

out of his native Salzburg to perform in Munich, Vienna, Prague, Mannheim, Paris, London,

Zurich, Bologna, Rome, and Milan.


W A Mozart (1756-1791), Sonata in E minor (1778)



Drinks are free but donations to costs are much appreciated


Antonio Bazzini (1818-1897), La Ronde des Lutins, op.25 (1852)

C S Lewis (1898-1963), from The Great Divorce (1945)


Long before (and long after) Shaw, in his play In the Beginning (1918) made his wise serpent

in the Garden tell Eve, “you see things; and you say ‘why?’, but I dream things that never

were; and I say ‘why not?’, writers and composers have vigorously gone the Why Not? route.

Championed as a violinist by Paganini, Bazzini conjured this scherzo fantastique dance in which

goblins egg a player’s fingers on to weird and wonderful dexterity. C S Lewis’s appetite for a

life beyond what he called “the region of imagination merely” dates from a gratifyingly Surrey

moment at the railway station in Leatherhead when he bought a book, Phantastes, by the Scottish

minister and writer George MacDonald, and said that, in reading it, “a few hours later, I

knew that I had crossed a great frontier’. Lewis’s gripping post-war prose dream vision of

heaven and hell, and the great divorce between them, can have a similar effect.


R L Stevenson (1850-1894)

Songs of Travel XI – The Roadside Fire and IV – In Dreams (1896)


The Pacific drew Robert Louis Stevenson as it had the Beagle of Charles Darwin, whose On the

Origin of Species Stevenson had devoured as an undergraduate in Edinburgh when it was still a

recent new book. Stevenson’s collection Songs of Travel and Other Verses, filled with the spirit

of his own wayfaring life, came out in 1895, only months after his death in the place of his final

years, Samoa, which, alongside memories of his native Scotland and of living beside Saranac

Lake in New York State, inspires the landscape of these poems. These were Vaughan-Williams’s

début as a song-writer, and he catches unerringly the poet’s truth in each of these two poems

that wayfaring has its ups and downs for the outer and the inner man. Charles Darwin was the

composer’s great-uncle, and thereby hangs a tale . . .


Ralph Vaughan-Williams (1872-1958), Songs of Travel III and V

Charles Darwin (1809-1892), from On The Origin of Species (1859)


Thomas Hardy (1840-1928), ‘Beeny Cliff’ (1913)


When Thomas Hardy and his bride of a few months Emma Gifford moved into their first home

in Surbiton, as fresh as memories of their wedding would have been images of their courtship,

and his bride’s Artemis-like prowess on horseback, along the North Cornish coast. Hardy recaptured

it all forty years later after Emma died. Love makes his memories return as she no longer

can, a theme which also intensifies the poignancy of Schubert’s song, from his late

Schwanengesang cycle and transcribed here, the more poignant because we are to believe that

this lover’s beloved is still alive; to whom he strengthens his persuasive voice with echoes of

the charms of whispering trees and, especially, of the ‘silver cadence’ of nightingales.


Franz Schubert (1797-1828), Ständchen D 957 (violin and piano)


Matthew Arnold (1822-1888), ‘The Buried Life’ (1852)


It may be one of the great ironies we fail so often to unravel that our sense of incompleteness

is felt as a desire for something deeper in our lives, when that something is what we already

have inside us: an inner life whose joys are lost on us because that life is deeper inside us than

we have learned to reach, and because the surface things of life which matter less act as a barrier

to what lies beneath and can nourish and guide us. Just how unfamiliar we may be with our

buried life, and yet how ready and grateful to be put in touch with it, make Arnold’s poem a

            revelation, news to us. Elgar’s inner life was forever coming up into the light of his music. Like

            his string quartet and cello concerto which share its key, this sonata is a gem of intense creative

            introspection born in the immediate aftermath of WW1. “The first movement”, he wrote, ”is bold

            and vigorous”.



Sir Edward Elgar (1857-1934), Sonata in E min, op.82 (1918)



Graham Fawcett

Graham studied Classics at Christ's Hospital, Horsham, where he was drawn to the teaching of

verse composition from English poetry into Greek and Latin metres; so, his first real encounters

with Shakespeare, Keats, Tennyson and others came in translating them. Graham talks about

poetry to audiences in bookshops, art galleries, upstairs bars, restaurants and old houses in

England, Italy, Spain and America, and gives annual illustrated lectures on literature and art in

central London. He broadcast on literature and music on Radio 3 for 25 years and taught at The

Poetry School from 1998 to 2015. He is under the impression that he lives and works like this,

and always has, after being shown Palgrave's Golden Treasury by his father when he was eight,

and, the same year, walking into the illustrations in a library book, W J Claxton's children's

book Half-Hours with Great Composers.

Elizabeth Cooney

Elizabeth was raised in Cork, Ireland and is now living in Farnham with her husband Nick and

daughter Sophia. She studied on scholarship at the Royal College of Music with Itzhak

Rashkovsky where she subsequently became Junior Fellow and assistant to her professor. She is

laureate of numerous international competitions. Elizabeth is leader of the Farnham Sinfonia and

is regularly invited to guest-lead orchestras, tours extensively with The English Chamber

Orchestra and Aurora Orchestra (most recently playing Mozart's Jupiter Symphony by memory),

and will perform with the latter this summer at the Royal Albert Hall at the BBC Proms

presenting Berlioz's Symphonie Fantastique by memory. She is a keen chamber musician and

enjoys collaborating with other artists presenting imaginative programmes such as those with

the LitMus Ensemble. She enjoys cinema, swimming and reading.

Siu Chui Li

Siu Chui Li is in demand as a recitalist and collaborative pianist and has given chamber concerts

throughout the British Isles, Europe and South East Asia. She has performed in major festivals

in the UK, including Chichester Festival, West Cork Festival, the Isle of Man Festival, and in the

Festival du Menton in France. Siu Chui has performed in notable venues such as the Wigmore

Hall, the Royal Festival Hall and Purcell Room, the Royal Opera House, and De Montford Hall.

Her collaborations with acclaimed artists include flautist Susan Milan, Timothy Jones (Principal

Horn, LSO), British cellist Josephine Knight, and the Doric String Quartet amongst others.

Recent performances include the Beethoven Triple Concerto with members of the Doric Quartet

in Saffron Hall, chamber concerts in Cambridge and London and solo recitals in the UK. Siu Chui

is Chair and co-director of Linton Music Series in Cambridge.
















































To see the full programme and to book in advance,

write to Graham at grahamkfawcett@googlemail.com





                                                                          Exhilarating Places

New York, Utopia, St Petersburg, South & North Cornwall, Arcadia, Bruges, Avalon, Thermopylae & Roncesvalles, Xanadu

How can we know, before we ever go there, that a new place will exhilarate us? Painting, photography, fiction, travel-writing, and poetry can put us on the plane with expectations, and pictures in our minds, and of course we then match what they promise against the realities that await us. Afterwards, art and writing intensify what we found, show us sights we missed, clothing our memories of them in the aura of legend as they had our hopes, so we may wonder if they exist when we are not there. Exhilarating Places visits charismatic cultural centres of our world and others we have dreamed of and invented. They catch our eye and instantly deliver both real and imagined destinations in great art and writing.






Exhilarating Places 1

New York  

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Manhattan was a meadow once. Then came grand edifices, teeming crowds from the world’s places, skyscrapers and avenues, symphonic noise, and numbers as names. Artists and photographers have breathed it all in, and out: Hopper, O’Keeffe, de Kooning, Florine Stettheimer, W J Bennett, Childe Hassam, Walker Evans and Alfred Stieglitz; and unforgettable life-stories on the page from Dickens, Whitman, James, Fitzgerald, Auden, Cather, Wharton, Runyon and McCarthy.

with Graham Fawcett


“I enjoy Graham’s mixed approach to lectures. First class information, discussion, reading and listening. Very stimulating”

To book sessions on this course, please click here on



Image: Frederick Childe Hassam, Fifth Avenue In Winter (1919)

Exhilarating Places 2


“A map of the world which does not include Utopia is not even worth glancing at,” wrote Oscar Wilde in 1891. Utopia is gifted a geography by More, Campanella, China’s Peach Blossom Spring writers, Swift, Butler, Thoreau, Morris, Lawrence, Woolf, Wells, and is found in a landscape by Qiu Ying, Raphael, Lorrain, A. Lorenzetti, Piero, Brueghel, Capability Brown, German and Russian avant-gardes, Degas, Pissarro, Signac, Ruskin, Kandinsky, Corbusier, Fuller, Crane, Magritte and F M Brown.

with Graham Fawcett

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Image: Ambrogio Lorenzetti, Allegoriy of Good Government (1338-39), Sala della Pace, Palazzo Pubblico, Siena




Exhilarating Places 3

St Petersburg


Pushkin’s dramatic poem, ‘The Bronze Horseman’, is a key witness, flanked by Dostoyevsky’s Raskolnikov, the stories of Gogol and Turgenev, poems by Blok, Akhmatova and Mandelstam,

and the wordless brilliance of Alexeyev, Bakst, Brodsky, Collmann, Falconet, Franz, Nikolai Ge, Lanceray, Repin, Serov, Surikov, Vasilyev, Vasnetov, and epic metropolitan architecture, all of

them testifying to Peter the Great’s delusions of grandeur in recklessly building this city on the sea.

with Graham Fawcett


Image: Fyodor Alekseev, View of Palace Embankment from the Peter and Paul Fortress


Exhilarating Places 4

South Cornwall

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Exhilarating Places 5

North Cornwall


Alfred Wallis’s untutored genius in a quayside hut sparked a school of painting in St Ives, its coast already vibrant with primeval energy, the myths of Arthur and Tristan, and the literary albums of Hardy and Lawrence. Here nature’s spaces were made new by Nicholson, Hepworth, Berlin, Heron, Winter, Barns-Graham, Frost, Lanyon and the Hiltons while Lawrence, Mansfield, Woolf, Barker, Clemo, WS Graham, David Wright, Heath-Stubbs and Ridler sang of dream-like landscapes.


with Graham Fawcett


Image: Wilhelmina Barnes-Graham, Island Sheds, St Ives, no 1 (1940)  Oil paint on plywood


To book this lecture for your local venue::

write to Graham Fawcett at grahamkfawcett@googlemail.com



Exhilarating Places 6


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The sub-title of Signac’s painting ‘The Golden Age Is Not In the Past’ seizes the idea of Arcadia as a blueprint for idyll in the present or future. Hesiod, Theocritus, Virgil, Catullus, Pausanias, Sidney, Sannazaro, Shakespeare, Cervantes, Marvell, Baudelaire, Stoppard, Whitman and Thomas crack its code in words, while art reveals it through Annibale Carracci, Poussin, Ingres, Corot, Lorrain, van Ruisdael, Böcklin, Gauguin, Cézanne, Matisse, Picasso, Chavannes, Maillol, and Thomas Cole.

with Graham Fawcett

Image: Paul Signac,  In The Time of Harmony: The Golden Age Is Not in the Past, It Is in the Future, 1893-95

To book this lecture for your local venue::

write to Graham Fawcett at grahamkfawcett@googlemail.com


Exhilarating Places 7


Image result for lucien levy dhurmer wiki commons bruges

George Rodenbach’s powerful story Bruges-la-Morte inspired an opera and a novel made into a film often acclaimed as the greatest ever (Hitchcock’s Vertigo). It was the first work of fiction to be published with photographs, featured here alongside Lucien Levy Dhurmer’s own atmospheric illustrations, the art of Jan van Eyck, Hans Memling, The Master of the Legend of St Lucy, Hugo van der Goes, Gerard David, Henri Le Sidaner, Pissarro and Bruges’s Gothic and Renaissance architectures.

with Graham Fawcett


Image: Fernand Khnopff, The Memory of Bruges: The Entry to the Beguinage

To book this lecture for your local venue::

write to Graham Fawcett at grahamkfawcett@googlemail.com

Exhilarating Places 8


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Based on legends from the Arthurian tradition, Thomas Malory’s Morte d’Arthur, still able to transport us to the shores of this island, is the centerpiece of a literary line-up led by Geoffrey of Monmouth, Isadore of Seville, Caradoc, Gerard de Wales, Chrétien de Troye, the Mabinogion, Tennyson, William Morris, Bonwick, T H White, Steinbeck, Rackham, Atwood and Garner, and art from Burne-Jones, D G Rossetti, Maclise, Beardsley, James Archer, Flint, Wyeth and Lotte Reiniger.

with Graham Fawcett


Image: Edward Burne-Jones, The Last Sleep of Arthur in Avalon (1881-98)

To book this lecture for your local venue::

write to Graham Fawcett at grahamkfawcett@googlemail.com



Exhilarating Places 9

Thermopylae and Roncesvalles

The Mountains of Thermopylae

Like stage tragedy, ambush stories alert us to the doom of others in places made sacred by their death, here in Thermopylae’s pass with Herodotus, Einhard, Byron, Cavafy, Amy Clampitt, and Golding, David, Daumier, Lear, Kokoschka, d’Azeglio, Rava, Meltzoff, Rainey, Connolly and Snedeker; and with Roland and Charlemagne in the Roncesvalles defile in ‘The Song of Roland’, and David, Redon, Roger, Fouquet, Michallon, Liedet, and glorious medieval illustrations for both dramatic events.

with Graham Fawcett

To book this lecture for your local venue::

write to Graham Fawcett at grahamkfawcett@googlemail.com

Image: Edward Lear, The Mountains of Thermopylae




Exhilarating Places 10


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Marco Polo called on the Great Khan in 1275 and wrote about him. So the name of Xanadu crossed the continents and centuries and reached the ears of Samuel Purchas, Samuel Taylor Coleridge in his poem ‘Kubla Khan’, Italo Calvino, Orson Welles, Simon Armitage, and the great literary travellers; with relics from the Khan’s palace, illustrations of the court, the Catalan Atlas, and work by Cremona, Richardson, Albert Goodwin, Dugald Stewart Walker, Patten Wilson, Lang, and John Vassos.

with Graham Fawcett

To book this lecture for your local venue::

write to Graham Fawcett at grahamkfawcett@googlemail.com


Image: Ebenezer Wake Cook, The Pleasure Dome Of Kubla Khan

Pictures Making Words


Do you yearn to write creatively, in whatever form? Do you already write but want new inspiration and encouragement? Pictures Making Words will present you with digital images of great artworks from many times and cultures – a stimulus to any writer. Graham Fawcett's courses and retreats at Othona have left no doubt of his finely honed instinct for what could help your particular creative endeavours.

Pictures Making Wordsis a short course for all those who love fresh stimulus for their writing – whether poetry or prose. It will present to you, through the touch-button immediacy of power-point and with carefully minimal commentary, the most inspirational painting and sculpture old and new.

There will be a wealth of images for you to take your time looking at and then see what feelings and ideas for writing the experience of them leaves you with.

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The theme creates strength and variety for you from the vastness of its subject: Planet Art, the Earth and everything in it as encountered by artists throughout the centuries. We can see what they saw from hill-top, valley-side, shore-line, doorway and windowsill, in light and darkness, across land, sea and sky: the world and human life in all its glory and diversity, rivers and lakes, mountains, birds and beasts, four seasons, four elements, men, women, children, settling and journeying, history-in-the-making, the idea of creation and the human as creator.


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This course is for those of you who want to write, whether you have written for years, or days, or never a word till now. You may write whatever you like in whatever way you like – poetry, prose, fiction, journal, diary, letter - and there will be no obligation whatsoever to finish writing anything or to read out what you have written.

To book this course for your own venue, write to Graham at grahamkfawcett@googlemail.com

Virgil's Aeneid

in word and image

“Our classic, the classic of all Europe, is Virgil”, said T S Eliot in 1944.    5 years on, the UK is scheduled to leave the EU, but not European culture. What better moment could there be to retrace the journey Virgil created for Aeneas: escape from the Trojan inferno, voyage to Carthage, love for Dido, abandonment of her to found a new Troy at Rome, and pilgrimage to the Underworld, a golden bough as passport. Artists picture it all as if they travelled with him.

Virgil's Aeneid 1 (Book I)

Venus as Travel Guide

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Aeneas’s mother is goddess of love, so he has a head start: Venus hears Jupiter prophesy the rise of Rome, so she guides her boy to Carthage where Queen Dido welcomes him in the temple. At dinner, he begins to tell his story. Botticelli, Boucher, Cézanne, Claude, Corot, Correggio, Ingres, Angelica Kauffmann, Reni, Rubens, Tiepolo, Titian, Turner and Zucchi flock to their easels to do it all in colour.

with Graham Fawcett



                                                          Image: Jean-Joseph Taillasson, Virgil Reading the Aeneid to Augustus and Octavia (1787), National Gallery, London


Virgil's Aeneid

in word and image


Virgil's Aeneid 2 (Book 2)

The Trojan Horse, and What Happened Next


AeAeneas transports Dido and us back to the fateful sequence of events when a Greek agent’s deceit and the priest Laocoon’s strangulation by sea serpents finally convince the Trojans to take the horse inside the city of Troy and so unleash their own destruction. The Carracci, El Greco, Fragonard, Guérin, the Mykonos Vase, Raphael, Rosa, Schopin and Tiepolo tell it how it was.





















with Graham Fawcett


Image: Giandomenico Tiepolo, The Procession of the Trojan Horse into Troy (c. 1760)























Virgil's Aeneid

in word and image


Virgil's Aeneid 3 (Book 2)

Out of the Burning Fiery Furnace of the City of his Birth


Cassandra is dragged away, the palace besieged, the Greeks are rampant, King Priam dies, and Venus prevents Aeneas from avenging Troy through killing Helen. Aeneas now knows that the time has come to flee: he carries his old father, leading his wife Creusa and son, Ascanius. But Creusa is lost. Barocci, Batoni, Bernini, Blondel, Claude, Genga, Nanteuil, Vouet and West picture it all.





















with Graham Fawcett

Image: Federico Barocci, Aeneas Flees Burning Troy (1598), Galleria Borghese, Rome

















Virgil's Aeneid

in word and image


Virgil's Aeneid 4 (Books 3 & 4)

The Escape: A Tale of Accidents, Monsters, Landfalls


Aeneas builds a fleet. They sail to Delos, Crete, the Strophades, Italy and Sicily, and so to Carthage. Dido falls in love with Aeneas, and the gods debate their destiny. The two go hunting and shelter from a storm in a cave whose atmosphere suggests love’s consummation. A. Carracci, Claude, Guignet, Janssens, Thomas Jones, Miel, Morrison, Tiepolo, Tischbein and Turner are visionary here.


with Graham Fawcett


Image: Thomas Jones, Landscape with Dido and Aeneas (Storm), 1769



Virgil's Aeneid

in word and image


Virgil's Aeneid 5 (Book 4)

The Work-life Balance Tips towards Destiny and Departure

William Turner. Mercury Sent to Admonish Aeneas.



The menace of Rumour is abroad. Jupiter sends Mercury to tell Aeneas his duty is to leave Carthage for Italy. Aeneas braces himself to break the news to Dido, whose nightmares now resolve her to die. Mercury visits Aeneas in a dream: he must go now to save his life and those of his companions. Claude is at the scene, as are Dossi, Giacquinto, Manetti, Reni, Tiepolo and Turner.


















with Graham Fawcett


Image: J M W Turner, Mercury Sent To Admonish Aeneas (1850)


Virgil's Aeneid

in word and image


Virgil's Aeneid 6 (Books 4&5)

As the Fleet Sails, so Dido’s Pyre is set alight



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Dido immolates herself. At sea, Aeneas and his crew look back, see the fire, but do not realize why it is burning. A storm drives them to Sicily, where they visit the tomb of Aeneas’s father Anchises and stage memorial games: sea-racing, athletics, boxing, archery, horsemanship. Trojan women fire the ships. Bourdon, Cayot, Coypel, Fuseli, Guercino, Reynolds, Robson, Rubens, Sacchi, Tiepolo.



with Graham Fawcett


Image: Augustin Cayot, The Death of Dido (1711), Louvre


Virgil's Aeneid

in word and image


Virgil's Aeneid 7 (Books 5&6)

Aeneas and the Sibyl: Destination Underworld



Aeneas’s beloved helmsman Palinurus is drowned by the god Sleep. They land at Cumae, Aeneas consults the Sibyl, is guided to the golden bough, finds the door to the Underworld, crosses the River Styx, and meets Palinurus’s ghost and the three-headed dog Cerberus. Burne-Jones, Crespi, Domenichino, Guercino, Hollar, Houbraken, Michelangelo, Rubens, Testa, Turner, van Swanenburg, Edder.





with Graham Fawcett


Image: Jan Brueghel, Aeneas and the Cumaean Sibyl in the Underworld (c. 1600)














Virgil's Aeneid 8 (Book 6)

Even More Momentous Ghosts Now Cross his Path


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In Limbo, Aeneas sees and speaks to Dido. She walks away wordlessly. He meets his comrade-in-arms Deiphobus; is shown the terrors of Tartarus but cannot enter; comes to idyllic Elysium, where his father Anchises prophesies Rome’s future. Then, out through the gate, he returns to the world. Jan Breughel the Elder and Younger, Croce, Dantan, Manfredi and The Master of the Aeneid. 



with Graham Fawcett


Image: Biagio Manfredi, Anchises and the Sibyl Deifobe leading Aeneas' Soul to Hell

Wednesday 26th June 2019, 1045-1245


Virgil's Aeneid

in word and image


Virgil's Aeneid 9 (Books 7, 8&9)

The Landing in Italy, a Latin War, and a Shield from Vulcan


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They pass Circe’s island, reach the Tiber’s mouth, and send an embassy to King Latinus, who offers Aeneas his daughter Lavinia in marriage. Juno and the Fury Allecto goad the Latins, led by Turnus, to war with the Trojans. Aeneas is divinely inspired to seek allies. The Trojan camp is invaded. Bourgeois, Jan Brueghel the Elder, Claude, de Lairesse, del Po, Desprez, Regnault, Serrur, Solimena.














with Graham Fawcett


Image: Louise Gibson Annand, Circe's Island   


Virgil's Aeneid 10 (Books 10, 11&12)

Aeneas Breaks a Siege and Faces Single Combat - and the Aeneid’s legacy



On the battlefield, Evander’s son Pallas is lost to Turnus’s spear. Aeneas kills several Latin chiefs. A truce allows the dead to be buried. Then, in renewed fighting, the Latins lose ground. Aeneas and Turnus meet face to face. Aeneas triumphs. The Aeneid is complete. But what is its legacy to poetry and art? Bazin, Cugnot, Dimier, Falguiere, Giordano, Perrin, and surprise ‘guests’














with Graham Fawcett


ImageLuca Giordano, Aeneas Defeats Turnus





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Poetry Is Communication


Poetry Is Communication was originally commissioned as the lead lecture for a conference on Poetry and Communication held at the University of Milan’s campus at Feltre in the pre-Alps. In it, Graham invites his audience to live and re-live their own personal relationship with all the poetry they have ever read and listened to since they were old enough to find pleasure and meaning in it, so that they go away at the end not only remembering what has always communicated and meant so much to them but cherishing its depths afresh, even as though for the first time.

to hire this lecture, write to Graham at grahamkfawcett@googlemail.com


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