Soc-Hopping No.11: The Oxford University Poetry Society

Student Life

Although The Oxford University Poetry Society was officially founded in 1946 poetry has always been an integral part of life in Oxford. Over the years at least seven poet laureates have attended Oxford and poets that have called Oxford their alma mater include Percy Bysshe Shelley and Philip Larkin. In 2011 OUPS wants to continue to add names to that Poetrarti and just encourage poetry. And I, your new president Obama, and your 2010 – 2011 65th years of OUPS committee, are doing just that.

Many Oxonions have not been exposed to poetry in all  its varied forms. They hear the word poetry, and fall victim to that epidemic ‘poetryphobia’, endemic perhaps to the teaching of poetry in school. As this year President my aim has been to change this by organising events to get people to think about poetry more laterally. I think that if ever the love child of the Union and OUDS existed (and by Love child I don’t mean Courtney Love) OUPS would probably be that child’s love interest and would be sadly uninterested. Our events alter between between being poetry reading, performances and talks, involving students, non-students and celebrated creatives but we are also much more than this.

Take for instance event our first event of term with poet-actor-musician Saul Williams which was a sell out event at Magdelen’s Grove Auditorium. It received a five star review from the Oxford Theatre Review and was put into The Guardian listings the weekend before the event. Have you ever seen a student society event make it into a national paper? That’s how good we are.

Last term we also organised ‘The possibilities of poetry in prose’ with Orange Prize for Fiction winner Francesca Kay as well outstanding ‘stand up’ poet Ross Sutherland’s sell out Edinburgh fringe, national tour this year, one-man one hour show ‘The Three Stigmata of Pacman’.  As well as his lecture on ‘Every Rendition On a Broken Machine’ a live adaptation of an essay he wrote for Stress Fractures http://www.pennedinthemargins.co.uk/?p=971 about computer generated poetry. So we provide these sorts of things as well as having poets.

As well as giving poetry aficionados the opportunity to see poets in Oxford OUPS also gives people who write poetry opportunities to read their stuff and in some instances alongside established poets. From the emo, to the finding themselves and finding Nemo, to the neon and neo-Gingsberg, to the ‘word’ and Def Jam heard, to the closet poet mathematician nerd, to the petrarchan sonnet song bird, to the Areopagus Sir Edward Dyer’s and to the person doesn’t know what any of that means but thinks it sounds interesting – we want you and your poetry.

Our most successful instance of this was ‘Oops. It’s Poetry’ at Sunday Roast at The Cellar, where students performed or read along some stella musicians, and between sips or stella and rum and coke, the packed out audience members found themselves, laughing, crying dumbstruck and dumbfounded in awe of what people had written/performed. And we’ll be doing more of this before the year is over.

OUPS members have the opportunity to write and critique each other every Wednesday at Chequers on the highstreet from 7 – 9. The Wednesday workshops are a blend of creative writing exercises and people bringing their own work to get feedback on. All we ask is you bring a pen and something to write into, be that an ipad or note pad and get ready push your writing forward in a friendly informal atmosphere(oh do bring your membership fee too!). And on top of this OUPS provides its members the opportunity to have on off writing master classes with some superb writers.

The Oxford University Poetry Society also administers a competition in declamation ‘Poetry Out Loud’,(think X-Factor meets channel 4’s Book Show) which is set to take place in a couple of weeks time. Competitors perform one or more poems in English, of their own choosing, which are not their own compositions. There are £150 worth of Oxford University Press books up for grabs. We also provide the university’s only poetry magazine/journal which publishes termly.

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