Fran Baker writes:
This year’s Rylands Poetry Reading was delivered by a poet who is probably better known to many of us in another of his roles. Rowan Williams was the 104th Archbishop of Canterbury until his retirement in 2012, and he is now Master of Magdalene College Cambridge. Although he has been a published poet for many years, it was only this year that he joined the list of Manchester-based Carcanet Press.
His reading opened on a seasonal note with the poem ‘Advent Calendar’. However, Williams dislikes being labelled as ‘a religious poet’, preferring to be ‘a poet for whom religious things matter intensely’ – and that was evident in the wide-ranging subject matter of the poems he went on to read and discuss. These included work from his new Carcanet collection, The Other Mountain, a number of his earlier works, and some of his translations of work by Welsh writers.
It was one of our best attended readings to date, and the Q&A session at the end was particularly lively, prompting discussion about poetry and translation; the influence of the Welsh language on Williams’s work; musical settings of his poetry; poetry and religion; and his admiration for the work of David Jones and Vernon Watkins.
Williams was a compelling speaker, and probably felt more at home in the church-like surroundings of the Historic Reading Room than many of our visiting poets.