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IMC 2020: Sessions

Session 1801: Sheppard Lecture: There Was an Old Man on the Border (Language: English)

Thursday 9 July 2020, 18.00-19.00

Sponsor:Leeds University Library
Speaker:Kevin Crossley-Holland

You and I, we face choices, and any choice may entail crossing a border. Most are humdrum. Five more minutes in bed? That extra chocolate? But some are substantive, with social implications, and a few are life-changing. As human beings, we share borders with previous generations (coming to terms with death, for instance) but we also face desperate contemporary challenges: green issues, overwhelming tides of refugees, the abuse of information technology. But while touching on such issues, I'm no philosopher, social historian, or indeed scholar, so I'm allowing myself largely to proceed from my own many crossing-places and six decades of my writing, held here in the great Brotherton Library at the University of Leeds.

My first border involves the perils of crossing from one language to another. How can one most truly translate Anglo-Saxon poetry? How can one get at the mindset, blood-tide, and words of another individual, culture, and time? The second is one we've all crossed: adolescence. My Arthurian trilogy begins in 1189 (oracy and literacy; mud and magic, religious absolutism - a time of many borders!), and its central character is Arthur de Caldicot, aged twelve, intelligent, literate, and eager to join the Fourth Crusade. So what were his deepest beliefs and fears? And third? I live in north Norfolk within earshot of the sea, and many of my poems grow out of the fickle foreshore and saltmarshes, where I try to chart the actual and sensory and put them to work as metaphor.

As poet, novelist, and translator, I want to share the slow procedure by which an idea or a sense becomes a word or two, a chain of words; how often that chain breaks, how those words need changing, developed by argument, informed by image, rhythm and sound. I want to explore my attempts at crossing from disorder to order.

Please note that this event is also open to members of the public. Places will be reserved for IMC delegates on presentation of your Congress name badge. Admission to this event will be on a first-come, first-served basis. Please ensure that you arrive as early as possible to avoid disappointment.

During the IMC, visit the Stanley & Audrey Burton Gallery in the Parkinson Building to see an exhibition of material from the Kevin Crossley-Holland literary archive, which explores his diverse engagement with mythology and the medieval through translation, poetry, and his incredibly successful 'Arthur' trilogy. This exhibition will be open until 18.00 on the day of the Sheppard Lecture. For more details, see p. 47.

Speaker: Kevin Crossley-Holland
Introduction: Stella Butler, Leeds University Library