Another session looked at opposites in poetry. A wonderful example is Simon Armitage's You're Beautiful. This is one poem that is better heard and here is Armitage reading it himself, click here. Not all poets do their work justice, but Armitage is an excellent reader and brings his words to life.
There were exercises set around each topic, but I'm afraid the Indoor Writer is still not up to sharing her poetry. She's waiting on the next Vogon Poetry Festival before taking that particular plunge.
However, after attending Lynn Jennings' excellent workshop at West Sussex Writers meeting last week she now knows all the tricks. Lynn talked about 'Performing your work' or as she put it: doing justice to your gems. With both poetry and prose examples read by well known actors (on CD, not the real thing) she worked us through 'The P's of Performance': here are a smattering of her top tips ...
Prepare - read it aloud at home or to someone first
Posture - try not to cover your face with the book, remember body language speaks volumes!
Pausing - stand and PAUSE before you launch into reading
Pace - take your time! (the audience is unlikely to run away...)
Pitch - think about varying the pitch, breathing properly will help!
Power - for just a few moments the audience is putty in your hands ...
Paint - try to paint the picture you want the listeners to see in their mind's eye
Passion - this is about enthusiasm, but it can also be about confident serenity
Production - when you read your work it's a mini-production, so help the audience to enjoy it to the full
Presence - believe in yourself and the audience will believe in you too
Personality - we each bring different gifts to share and remember 'you can't please all of the people' etc
We listened to the same poem read by different actors and discussed our preferences. This almost ended in a writers' punch-up (poetry fans are an emotive bunch) as the room fell into disagreement over the better reading of Dylan Thomas' Fern Hill: Richard Burton or Michael Williams. Sorry, but I'm a Burton fan through and through. His version was sublime.
Finally, I'd like to share this reading with you. WH Auden's poem Funeral Blues (popularly known as Stop all the Clocks) became immortal after being read by John Hannah during the film 'Four Weddings and a Funeral'. I read it recently and hated it - to me it seemed such a flimsy, almost comic poem, not a fitting epitaph to a loved one, nor capturing true grief. And then I heard Lindsay Duncan reading the poem, you can listen here. It was as if I was hearing the poem for the first time. The emotion resonates in her low, barely contained voice, and it seriously got to me.
If like the Indoor Writer you are a little scared by poetry and couldn't tell a villanelle from a pekingese then I recommend the anthologies of modern poetry published by Bloodaxe (edited by Neil Astley, photo top right): Staying Alive, Being Alive and Being Human. You can dip into these at your leisure to discover new poems and revisit old favourites. And if you want to learn more about poetry forms and history then these have just been recommended to me (but not yet read):
The making of a poem - Boland and Strand
Poetry the basics - Jeffrey Wainwright
Poetry Handbook - John Lennard
Are there any poems that have gotten to you? Please share.