Sydney, Wednesday 18 October 2022: One of Australia’s favourite poets, Luke Whitington, and Australia’s ‘Olympic Poet’, who reported in verse for the Sydney 2000 Games, Mark O’Connor, were the headline acts for the inaugural Ramsay Writers Event, held before a packed audience at the Ramsay Centre earlier this month.
The evening event was designed to showcase the works of the two poets, along with hearing their perspectives on great works that had influenced them. Future Ramsay Writers Events will highlight more celebrated and emerging Australian writers, treating audiences to readings of their work, as well as their perspectives on influential works from the past.
Luke Whitington began his career traversing the landscapes of Italy and Ireland where he was published in Florence by The Sigh Press and the Irish Centre for Poetry Studies, respectively. After spending years supporting artists and writers in Dublin through his multimedia gallery Pleasants Factory, Luke returned to Australia where his works have appeared in Fairfax media and several anthologies including the Canberra Anthology and Australian Love Poetry. Luke is published by Ginninderra Press, Adelaide in two collections: Only Fig & Prosciutto and What Light Can Do.
For our inaugural Ramsay Writers Event Luke spoke on how he could not imagine a world without Dante, Homer, or any of the other prolific writers of ancient Greece and Rome. He read from the poetry of C. P. Cavafy, widely considered the most distinguished Greek poet of the 20th century, as well as treating the audience to a selection of his own poems. His poems included Ex patriate, Swallows in St Peter’s Square, Return to the silence, Aphrodite, Ecos, The geese, and My Ithaca..
Mark O’Connor has taught English at several universities, published 13 books of verse and is the editor of Oxford University Press’’s much reprinted Two Centuries of Australian Poetry. Mark’s work is often inspired by Australia’s vast natural landscapes, including the Great Barrier Reef and the Blue Mountains. He has undertaken fellowships in the US, Europe, Russia, China, and India. In addition to his own poetry, Mark’s latest work focuses on translating Shakespeare’s verse into modern English.
Mark told the Ramsay Writers audience that he has come to disagree with T.S. Eliot’s view that ‘our classic, the classic of all Europe, is Virgil.’ He said while this was once true, he increasingly viewed Shakespeare as central to what poetry can offer. On modern poets he discussed Les Murray as a poet who in a later age revived the tradition of Chaucer and Shakespeare, writing wide-ranging poetry in which almost any topic can be addressed.
Mark read Shakespeare’s Sonnet 71 and Les Murray’s The Conquest. He also treated the audience to his own translation of a passage from Shakespeare’s Troilus and Cressida, as well as reading his own poems, focussing on his wedding in the Australian landscape and the creation story
Ramsay Centre CEO Professor Simon Haines said it was a delight to host two such talented poets and to hear how great works from the past had influenced their thinking and creative processes.
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