On Friday 17 February, colleagues in Iberian and Latin American Studies celebrated their well-established Annual Peers Symposium, which this year was devoted to Spanish contemporary poetry, with a special emphasis on the work of Spanish poet Luis García Montero. It was a great event, supported by the Instituto Cervantes in Manchester and the Office for Cultural and Scientific Affairs at the Embassy of Spain in the United Kingdom, attracting more than 120 attendees and including students, staff, academics from other institutions, and members of the general public.
The day kicked off with a welcome address by our Head of Department, Professor Matthew Philpotts, who praised the figure of Edgar Allison Peers as well as the impact of his legacy. After that, the first speaker of the day, Dr Javier Letrán (University of St Andrews) delivered the lecture ‘Poetry in the Age of Neoliberalism: Reflections on Luis García Montero’s Balada en la muerte de la poesía’. Our second invited speaker, Professor Chris Perriam (University of Manchester), delivered an interactive session entitled ‘Spanish Realities/Spanish Verses’, and during which the symposium attendees read and discussed poems by Antonio Machado, Luis Cernuda and Manuel Rico.
The 2017 Annual Peers Lecture was delivered by Luis García Montero, and it was entitled ‘El compromiso con la poesía’. The lecture proved to be a fascinating address in which he defended poetry as a tool to stand up to neoliberalism and dogmatism. Luis García Montero is one of the most read and influential Spanish poets today, as well as a distinguished literary critic, journalist and a professor of Spanish Literature at the University of Granada. García Montero has played a key role in Spanish contemporary poetry: in the early 1980s he was a crucial figure of the poetic group La otra Sentimentalidad, which promoted a Marxist approach to literature and emphasised the need to write according to one’s time, sensibilities and socio-historical context, following Antonio Machado’s ideas. A few years later, in the 1990s, he became the leading poet of poesía de la experiencia, one of the most important poetic trends in Spanish contemporary poetry, and one that has certainly inspired and shaped later generations of poets and readers alike.
‘We were really pleased to be part of such a magnificent event. Poetry was almost literally in the air. Luis García Montero, Charlie Arnáiz, Javier Letrán and Chris Perriam, each in their own particular way, spoke about contemporary poetry in such a way that all of us listened in awe. Fascination, emotions running high… The symposium could not have been better’ (Instituto Cervantes Manchester)
The symposium closed with the screening of Aunque tú no lo sepas (a film on Luis García Montero’s poetry) and a Q&A session with the director Charlie Arnaiz and Luis García Montero. Following Q&A, all invited speakers visited the Special Collection Archives in the Sydney Jones Library, where colleagues had displayed a fascinating sample from the Edgar Allison Peers’ Collection.