Second Border Crossings conference focused on poetry and poetic practices

The Research Centre for Migration, Diaspora and Exile (MIDEX) hosted prominent literary artists for an innovative conference, ‘Border Crossings II’, in December 2023.

This event, supported by the School of Psychology and Humanities, focused on poets, poetic practices (including translation), and creative approaches to the theme of Border Crossings. As many thinkers and makers may cross borders between scholarship and art, the conference offered literary artists the freedom to present their work, and interdisciplinary practitioners the opportunity both to perform and to reflect.

The previous academic conference was in 2022 (supported by MIDEX), with the theme 'Representations of Border Crossings in Literature, Media and the Arts'. This year’s speakers included both academics and poets, who read poetry that touched on or illuminated the conference theme. Building on the success of the first conference, the event also shifted the focus from academic to poetic discourse.

The conference was addressed by Pro Vice-Chancellor for Research and Enterprise, Professor StJohn Crean, and closed by the Mayor of Preston, Yakub Patel.

Organiser, Dr Olga Tabachnikova, who leads the ‘Representations of Migration, Diaspora and Exile in Media, Literature and Art’ research strand of the MIDEX Centre, said: “We believe that poetry can engage with reality more effectively (and with its readers – more directly) than scholarship can alone. We hoped to unfold the thematic potential of 'Border Crossings' more profoundly, in and through our poetic gathering.”

Musicians Elena Artamonova with viola and Yuri Kalnits with violin at the Border Crossings conference
Musicians Elena Artamonova with viola and Yuri Kalnits with violin at the Border Crossings conference

An award-winning poet and poetry translator herself, Olga, who is also the founding Director of The Vladimir Vysotsky Centre for Slavonic Studies, read her own poems in the Russian original and in English translation. These poems catered for both English and Russian speakers in the audience, including Ukrainian refugees. “I am proud to have participated in this outstanding event alongside my distinguished colleagues such as Dr Yvonne Reddick, the winner of Laurel Prize for Best UK First Collection of Ecopoetry and holder of other prestigious awards, who read her poems, and Dr Elena Artamonova, a prominent scholar and violist, who performed in the conference concert alongside the world-renowned violinist Yuri Kalnits.”

Other distinguished poetic participants included award-winning poets of broad geography such as Anthony Vahni Capildeo, Zoe Skoulding, Stav Poleg, Rommi Smith, Jason Allen-Paisant, and many others, as well as Professor Michael Schmidt, OBE, the founder of Carcanet Press and PN Review, who gave the concluding keynote lecture.

The Mayor of Preston, Yakub Patel, said: “It is very important to talk in a constructive and artistic way about Crossing Borders, as culture is our only hope at this time and age.” We believe that a conference like this serves not only to advance the University educational mission, but also to have real-world impact, in which we pride ourselves.