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Source: University of Canterbury

Poetic inspiration comes in many forms, and across many centuries. Even an ardent, if ancient, Roman poet still managed to influence the work of beloved New Zealand poets James K. Baxter and C.K. Stead.

The University of Canterbury’s (UC’s) Teece Museum opens its 2020 free, public programme on 21 February by giving the floor to visiting Oxford University scholar Professor Stephen Harrison, an expert on the influence of the poet Catullus.

The translation and imitation of Latin poets has been a consistent feature of modern New Zealand poetry in English. In this event, Professor Harrison will explore the influence of Catullus, a poet of the late Roman Republic, on the work of both Baxter and Stead.

In 1966 Baxter was the Burns Fellow in Creative Writing at Otago University, and took classes in Classics. Baxter then wrote a sequence of fourteen poems which were published posthumously in 1973. One of those poems was ‘At the Grave of a War Hero’, which draws loosely on Catullus 101, an epitaph for the poet’s brother.

Catullus was an important poetic precedent for Baxter and Stead, who both manipulated and modified classical originals for modern contexts.

Professor Harrison is Fellow and Tutor in Classics at Corpus Christi College, Oxford and Professor of Latin Literature in the University of Oxford. He is an author and editor of many books on Latin literature and its reception, including most recently a commentary on Horace Odes 2 (CUP) and a monograph on Victorian Horace: Classics and Class (Bloomsbury), both 2017, and co-edited volumes on Intratextuality and Latin Literature (De Gruyter, 2018), the poetics of the weaker voice in Latin Literature (OUP, 2018), Roman receptions of Sappho (OUP, 2019) and Seamus Heaney and the Classics: (OUP, 2019).

Entry to Catullus in New Zealand, on 21 February at 6pm, is free but places are limited so please register through the UC website. Doors open at 5.30pm.

The Teece Museum is in the UC Arts city location, 3 Hereford St. This is the first in the museum’s series of free short-format public talks for 2020. For more information about 2020 events, sign up to the Museum newsletter: