I have written previously about the great privilege it has been to be one of the poets-in-residence for the Oxford Brookes/Oxford 2017/18 Mellon Sawyer series Post-War: Commemoration, Reconstruction, Reconciliation. The series brought together academics, politicians, peace negotiators, artists, musicians, and many others to engage with key questions about how we mark and respond to war. It culminated in a series of powerful events including a post-graduate seminar, a concert at the Sheldonian (including the premiere of Gallipoli to the Somme by Anthony Ritchie) and for the poets-in-residence, a poetry reading in the Harris Manchester college chapel. I am hugely grateful to the three organisers of the series: Prof. Kate McLoughlin, Dr. Catherine Gilbert and Dr. Niall Munro, and also to the post-graduate students who supported the series and my fellow poets-in-residence, Mariah Whelan, Sue Zatland, Patrick Toland and Dahmicca Wright.
The series may have formally concluded but of course the questions it raised continue. The work goes on. My exploration into what might be considered a crisis in the UK’s current commemorative practice, and into the positioning of ourselves as ‘post-war’, despite the UK’s ongoing financial, political and military involvement in war and conflict round the globe, has led me to the title of this post and its question: not post-war, but post-peace?
Below are links to a recording of A Crack of Light, a reading by four out of the five poets of work created for the series, and a podcast of Dr Niall Munro interviewing me about the experience of being poet-in-residence.
Again I would like to express my thanks to all the organisers, poets and participants, especially those who shared their personal experiences of conflict, trauma and loss. It was a humbling and transformative experience.
A Crack of Light: Poetry reading by Mariah Whelan, Sue Zatland, Patrick Toland and Susie Campbell (work created for the series):
Podcast of Susie Campbell talking to Dr Niall Munro: