In celebration of the publication of Debasish Lahiri’s Legion of Lost Letters: Dramatic Monologues of Romans In Exile (Black Spring Press), this roundtable discussion and reading will explore the place of poetry and storytelling in imagining Roman Britain in the present. From the poetic hauntings of everyday Romans in Lahiri’s poems to the ordinary – and extraordinary – tales and artifacts of everyday life in Roman London, depicted in the works of Josephine Balmer and Caroline Lawrence, we will read the traces of the Roman past and examine their haunting presences in London and wider Britain today.
Josephine Balmer’s most recent collection, Ghost Passage (Shearsman, 2022), is based on Roman writing tablets and other inscribed objects excavated in the City of London. Her previous collection, The Paths of Survival (Shearsman, 2017), was a Poetry Book of the Year in The Times and short-listed for the London Hellenic Prize. Other works include Letting Go (Agenda Editions, 2017), The Word for Sorrow (Salt, 2009), Chasing Catullus (Bloodaxe, 2004) and acclaimed translations of Catullus, Classical Women Poets and Sappho (all Bloodaxe).
Debasish Lahiri is a poet and academic from Kolkata, India. His poems have been widely published in journals like The Journal of the Poetry Society of India, The Poetry Salzburg Review and The French Literary Review, among others. Lahiri is currently on the editorial board of Gitanjali & Beyond (Scottish Centre for Tagore Studies). He is a reviewer and regular contributor to the ‘Life & Letters’ column of The Statesman newspaper. Lahiri’s essay on the pandemic in Kolkata appeared in L’Obs magazine on 27th July 2021. Lahiri is the recipient of the Prix-du Merite, Naji Naaman Literary Prize 2019. He is an honorary member of Maison Naaman pour la Culture.
Caroline Lawrence is the author of over forty historical novels for children and young adults, including the popular Roman Mysteries series of books, televised for the BBC in 2007 & 2008. Her four-book Roman Quests series (Orion 2016-2018) is set in Roman Britain during the final years of the Emperor Domitian and her book The Time Travel Diaries (Piccadilly Press 2019) is partly based in 3rd century Londinium. She often goes into schools to talk about the ancient world and the craft of writing.
Todd Swift was a 2017-2018 Visiting Scholar at Pembroke College, Cambridge, as the Writer-in-residence. He has had over twenty collections of his own poetry published, by presses in Canada, the US, Ireland, and the UK. He has written over 100 hours of television, including for Paramount, the CBC, Fox, CINAR, Disney, and HBO – and was the series editor for anime cult classic Sailor Moon. Professor Mark Ford of UCL has called him ‘The Orson Welles of contemporary poetry’.
This event is co-hosted by the School of Advanced Study’s Institute of Classical Studies (ICS) and the Centre for the Study of Cultural Memory (CCM) and is part of the Centre for the History of People, Place and Community’s (CHPPC) ‘People, Place and Community’ seminar series.