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Cambridge University Library

Laureate's Library Tour

'I want to celebrate the physical space of libraries and take my work back into places that have given me so much.’

Join Poet Laureate Simon Armitage and special guest Imtiaz Dharker, Cambridge University Library’s former poet-in-residence, to celebrate historic poetry archives in this unique free event hosted as part of the Laureate’s Library Tour C-D. Both poets will read some of their poems and be in conversation with Cambridge University Library Librarian and Director of Library Services, Dr Jessica Gardner.

Over the centuries, the Library has become a storehouse of poetical manuscripts, holding treasures ranging from unique medieval survivals of a Chaucer poem, to texts by John Donne, Alfred Lord Tennyson and Siegfried Sassoon. Our work in this area is ongoing, and in recent years we have greatly extended our holdings of archives of contemporary poets, including papers of Anne Stevenson, D. J. Enright, George Szirtes, Denise Riley and J. H. Prynne. 

Each spring for the next decade, Simon Armitage will give readings across the UK, from the flagship libraries of the big cities to smaller libraries serving rural and remote communities. Using the alphabet as a compass, his journey will celebrate the library as one of the great and necessary institutions.

The C-D Libraries Tour is kindly supported by the T.S. Eliot Foundation, Mark Pigott KBE and Faber & Faber.

Poet Laureate Simon Armitage was born and grew up in West Yorkshire. He is the recipient of numerous prizes and awards, including the Queen's Gold Medal for Poetry and the PEN Prize for Translation.  He has published over a dozen poetry collections, including Magnetic Field: the Marsden Poems, and acclaimed medieval translations of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight and The Owl and the Nightingale.   He is the author of two novels and three non-fiction bestsellers: All Points North, Walking Home and Walking Away.  A regular broadcaster, Armitage presents the popular BBC Radio 4’s series The Poet Laureate has Gone to his Shed.  He writes extensively for television and radio, most recently for BBC 2’s Where Did The World Go, A Pandemic Poem.   An award-winning dramatist, his play The Last Days of Troy was performed at Shakespeare's Globe. He writes, records and performs with the band LYR and has received an Ivor Novello Award for his song writing. His new book Never Good with Horses (April 2023) will feature his song lyrics. Armitage is Professor of Poetry at the University of Leeds. A Vertical Art brings together the vibrant and engaging lectures from his tenure as Oxford Professor of Poetry (2015-2019).

Imtiaz Dharker is a poet, artist and video film maker, awarded the Queen’s Gold Medal for Poetry in 2014. She has been Poet in Residence at Cambridge University Library and worked on several projects across art forms in Leeds, Newcastle, Manchester and  Hull as well as the Archives of St Paul’s Cathedral. Her six collections include Over the Moon and the latest, Luck is the Hook, with poems featured on radio, television, the London Underground, Glasgow billboards and Mumbai buses. She has had eleven solo exhibitions of drawings and scripts and directs video films, many of them for non-government organisations working in the area of shelter, education and health for women and children in India.

Dr Jessica Gardner has spent her career in university libraries, and has been the University Librarian for Cambridge since 2017. Before coming to Cambridge, Jessica was the Director of Libraries at the Universities of Bristol and Exeter, and started her career working in archives and special collections at the University of Leeds in the 1990s. She holds a PhD (in British & Commonwealth Literature), MA (in Commonwealth Literature) and BA (in English) from the University of Leeds. Jessica is Chair of Research Libraries UK (RLUK), a Fellow of Selwyn College, Cambridge, and one of the University’s Deputy Vice-Chancellors for ceremonial events.

Location: This event is being hosted in-person at Cambridge University Library, in the Milstein Seminar Rooms. For information about how to find us, please click here. This event is not being live streamed or recorded.

Accessibility: For accessibility information, please click here.

Registration: Booking is essential. This event is free and open to all, advisory age 11+ (poetry may contain strong language). REGISTER HERE

Date: Wednesday 8th February 2023

5.30pm to 6.30pm