Our first poetry news roundup of the week looks at the Coleridge exhibition at the Museum of Somerset and the new poem from the poet laureate Simon Armitage.
Coleridge Manuscript Returns to Where it Was Written
A handwritten copy of Kubla Khan, the poem that Samuel Taylor Coleridge claims came to him in a drug-induced reverie, is to be put on display at the Museum of Somerset.
If the story is to be believed two centuries ago, the poet woke from a drug-induced event and wrote the poem for which he is so well known. Now, the only handwritten version of the poem will be returning to Taunton, the place where it was written.
The manuscript will take pride of place at the centre of the new exhibition close to the valleys and hills that the poem walked with his friend and fellow poet William Wordsworth towards the end of the 18th century.
The story behind the poem is almost as famous as the poem itself and this will offer experts a real chance to re-examine the origins of the poem and the important role that Somerset played within the Romantic movement, something that is often overshadowed by the significance that is attributed to Wordsworth and the Lake District.
During his time in the area Coleridge lived in a draughty cottage that was infested with mice, just north of Taunton. He spent three years there and it was during this time that he also wrote The Rime of the Ancient Mariner and in collaboration with Wordsworth, a collection of poetry called Lyrical Ballads.
The manuscript was the property of a Gloucestershire collection until it was acquired by the British Library on her death. This is the last chance that many people will have to see the manuscript as it is written on blue paper which over time loses its colour. Following the exhibition, it is expected to be returned to the British Library where it will once more be rested away from the gaze of the public.
Simon Armitage Writes “Resistance” a Ukraine War Poem
The poet laureate has penned a poem that he refers to as “a refracted version of what is coming at us in obscene images through the news’. The poem looks at the invasion that has occurred in Ukraine and the pain that is caused by displacement; a mark of solidarity for the people who are currently under fire.
The poem was written over the course of several days, with the television footage of the uncovering events as Armitage’s backdrop. As poet laureate, he felt that this was one of those occasions when he needed to respond publicly to the events that are taking place and the struggles that people are having with the scenes that they are witnessing.
In the poem he looks at the inevitable hopelessness that war is once again taking place somewhere in the world and that so many of us are powerless, sitting at home unable to do anything. Writing it down helped him to take ownership of how he felt.