‘I can’t go on, I’ll go on’: Irony, Meaninglessness, & the Poetry of the Absurd

‘I can’t go on, I’ll go on’: Irony, Meaninglessness, & the Poetry of the Absurd

It’s a fish, smoking a cigar, next to a glass of wine.

* This course will take place on video-conferencing platform ZOOM *  

We are often confronted with absurd situations in everyday life, ranging from areas such as politics, technology & bureaucracy, through to the trivial-absurd, perhaps the same unavoidable, ridiculous conversation with a neighbour or a work colleague day-in-day-out. 

The absurd is a term rooted in Albert Camus’ existentialism, relating to a sense of human purposelessness in the modern world. A philosophy birthed in response to a universe thought to have no value or meaning. Existentialism sees us in an irrational universe, as nothing more than chance numbers in the “cruel mathematics” of life. 

But existentialism is not the doom and gloom that people often associate it with. Camus believed that meaning and happiness can be found in two ways. Firstly, through accepting that the universe is meaningless, and in that sense becoming free. Secondly, through creative arts, which Camus believed is the ultimate form of joy. For Camus, art and creating is what makes life worth living and, therefore, we create our own meaning. 

Considering all this, in this one-day course we will also look at irony and humour as a defence mechanism, and as a way of dealing with human insignificance, pointlessness, and lack of meaning. Exploring together why jokes, humour, nonsense and the absurd are so naturally entwined. 

Responding, poetically, to a mix of poetry and prose that embraces and celebrates the absurd, we will look at writers including Samuel Beckett, Albert Camus, Franz Kafka, Daniil Kharms, Lydia Davis, Diane Williams, Anne Carson, Jennifer L. Knox, Fernando Pessoa, John Ashbery, and Jenna Clake. 

1 full-day session, running 10.30am–4.30pm (GMT), on 2 March 2024. This course will take place on the video-conferencing platform ZOOM. 

To apply for a concession rate, please send relevant documentation showing your eligibility for one of our concessions to administ[email protected]. Conditions of eligibility are detailed here. More information about how our Video Courses work can be found on the Video Courses page. If you have any questions or wish to be added to the waiting list of a sold-out course, please email [email protected]. 

Image credit:@enginakyurt

About Vik Shirley View Profile

Vik Shirley is a poet, writer, editor, and academic from Bristol now living in Edinburgh. Her collection, The Continued Closure of the Blue Door (HVTN), her pamphlets, Corpses (Sublunary Editions), Grotesquerie for the Apocalypse (Beir Bua), and Poets (The Red Ceilings Press), and her book of photo-poetry Disrupted Blue and other poems on Polaroid (Hesterglock) were all published 2020–2022. Her work has appeared in such places as Poetry London, The Rialto, Magma, 3am Magazine, Tentacular, Perverse, and Tears in the Fence. A Poetry School tutor, teaching on the Surreal Narrative, Absurdism, and the Grotesque in Poetry, she has a PhD in Dark Humour and the Surreal from the University of Birmingham. Vik is Associate Editor of Sublunary Editions and Co-Editor of ‘Surreal-Absurd’ for Mercurius magazine. Her chthonic sequel to Corpses, Notes on the Underworld (Sublunary Editions), will be published in Autumn, 2023, as will her collection Strangers Wave: Joy Division Photo Poems (zimZalla). 

‘Poetry School offers the most-innovative and creative poetry workshops I've had the pleasure to attend. The tutors are world-class and the themes and topics varied and interesting. I have gained more confidence in myself as a result of the courses I've taken.’

- Summer 2023 survey response

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