For quite some time I have wanted to record myself reading my ‘poetry’, after all much of it was written for performance. I have been reinvigorated to undertake this arduous task by the very fine and perceptive editor of Centrifugal Eye accepting my poem Macbeth At The Writers Group which has up to now only been ‘performed’ at Renegades.
Do I record my work as sound only or do I film myself performing? Or maybe I film suitable images and do a voice-over. I think just recorded is the best so I can invade people’s minds on their MP3 players.
I have a microphone. When looking it up online it is now seen as a ‘vintage’ microphone, I only bought it in 1981! I talked to my expert friend George and he recommended a preamp and things as the recording I can get through my pc is so low that the voice would be badly distorted to make it heard properly, maybe I should wait and find a recording studio or until I see him again.
Listening to poetry is how I became to properly appreciate it. My education between 11 and 16 was pretty poor, my own fault really, so I had little understanding of poetry and its beauty, form and formalities. Then when I went to Cardiff College of Art I found that Cardiff Central Library had the most wonderful record library. They had all the Argo recordings as well as a tremendous selection of music. The recordings opened up a new world and through the poet or actor speaking/performing I ‘got it’! I had grown up listening to Under Milk Wood, the wonderful 1954 Argo recording with Richard Burton, and fondly remember winter afternoons listening to this with my mother, but here was an even more delightful world.
There is a difference between actors and writers reading. I have a copy of Alec Guinness reading T S Eliot, which I prefer to Eliot’s own version, his voice just didn’t fit the rhythm of the words, which is odd, because most writers ‘fit’ their words, I would urge you to listen to Stevie Smith reading. It may be interesting to find an actor to read my stuff, just to hear it back, I’d probably end up re-writing it yet again! Some of what I write was started 10 or more years ago and revised and revised. I never actually see it as the ‘finished article’ at any point.
At the last Renegades Writers meeting I attended, Jem brought up the issue of improving the way we read our work. We often rush to try and fit a bit more in to the slot we have, maybe because we know it ourselves we don’t emphasise things enough. I remember attending a group, I can’t remember where, who passed their work to another person to read aloud, not a trained person, but a way of hearing how their work sounded. I remember organising a weekend of workshops, and we had the glorious Rosie Garland (aka Rosie Lugosi) who is a truly top class performer, we didn’t dress in thigh length patent boots, black stockings, figure hugging basques and flail whips (I am sure there were many who secretly wished for that!), but people did learn a lot about planning and presenting their public performances, using their voices better and improving stagecraft. The presentation of your work is important, whether in a workshop setting or in public, because a well read piece makes people notice it and give the supportive feedback we need to improve and develop.
So, sometime soon you will have the joy of being able to download not just the texts of my writing but me performing, so clear off those albums from your iPods, once you hear it nothing else will feel right.
Today’s photograph is the locked door of Tunstall Baths, built in 1890 for the people of the town and closed due to cuts in 2011 and probably never to open again. Overcast, windy, bleak midwintery, just about to rain, 1.45pm.