Oxford Playhouse and Live Canon theatre makers have combined – just in time for summer visitors - to produce an audio tour of Oxford, featuring some of its most iconic locations, and the poetry they have inspired.
The tour takes approximately an hour, but there is plenty of time to stop, enjoy the scenery, and listen to 22 poems, ranging widely in style and century. Most of the poets featured have been students at Oxford University (John Wilmot, Earl of Rochester coming up at the age of 12), or, as in the cases of CS Lewis and Craig Raine, were dons here. Raine’s Houses in North Oxford is a witty take by a current resident.
While modern poets are well represented (Dom Moraes, Adrian Henri, Danielle Moffat, Tom Paulin and one of last week’s Oxford Literary Festival star turns, Vikram Seth), there are also contributions from earlier masters including Donne, Shelley, Robert Southey and Gerard Manley Hopkins.
Kingsley Amis is refreshingly acerbic in Their Oxford, while James Elroy Flecker’s Oxford Canal explores a little known area, off the tourist trail, but close enough to be included with ease in the Poetry Walk’s 17-stop route.
While leading the listener around Oxford sights, it is the auditory landscape which offers additional, unexpected surprises. Edward Thomas’ In Memoriam hauntingly evokes the sacrifice of men commemorated at the first Oxford War Memorial in New Inn Hall Street. Without John Betjeman’s Oxford, Sudden Illness at the Bus Stop, who might have remarked on the patiently waiting bus passengers of St Aldate’s?
William Morris and GD Rosetti’s joint collaboration on murals decorating the Oxford Union (£1.50 entrance) was complicated by their joint interest in William Morris’ wife Jane, first seen at the Holywell Music Rooms. Love is Enough, Morris wrote, while A Little While, by Rosetti is also included. Delightful, whimsical and perfectly pitched is Lewis Carroll’s Maggie’s Visit to Oxford. What a time they had!
The Oxford Poetry Walk audio tour (£3.00) is available from the Box Office at the Oxford Playhouse from 10am-6pm Monday-Saturday (or till 4.30pm when there is no evening show at Oxford Playhouse). A CD (now only £5) is also on sale there, or online via www.livecanon.co.uk