Guest Writer: Tiffany Atkinson


Tiffany Atkinson is one of the panellists for our panel discussion on “Literature as a Guide to Human Nature” (2:30pm on Saturday 15 Sept).


In the panel I’d like to reflect on poetry and its role as ‘guide to human nature’ because that is the form i teach and work in, though I came to it comparatively late.

I was rather afraid of poetry as a student of literature (and certainly as a writer) until i realised that what i love about it is its very difference from story and drama.

I can give some examples of how this dawned on me – one such occasion was staring at a small poster of a William Carlos Williams poem on the London Underground on my way to college, for example (in the 80s and 90s London Transport printed a series of ‘Poems on the Underground’).

I’d like to suggest how, despite not being generally a narrative or character-based form, the lyric poem gives us insight into ourselves and others as linguistic beings, but with different ‘pressures’ and (i would argue) joys.

And for me the pleasures come not from recognition of something stable in human character, but precisely of something uncertain or unstable about the condition of being-in-language.

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