Jo Shapcott - 31 May 2007
I've just been at the Hay Festival, listening to writers read from their work (and getting rained on in between sessions). It made me think back to readings I've been at in the past, and prompted two questions for the blog. First, what does the experience of listening to the poet read add to the poem (this relates to the archive as well as to live readings)? And second, what was the poetry reading that had the most impact on you? Don't forget, please feel free to raise any other questions you like as well, or even just thoughts about poetry that you'd like discussed.
My most memorable poetry reading would have to be hearing Ted Hughes many years ago in London. His voice and the energy he radiated left a powerful impression which comes back to me every time I read his poems. There are two recordings by Hughes in the archive: 'Pike' and 'February 17th'. Check them out and let us know what you think. From my point of view as a reader, these public events give me the chance to say the poems out loud in the way I hear them inside my head (if you see what I mean) so that I can communicate their music to the audience. Poetry readings also allow me to test drive new poems. It's sometimes startling how different they sound in front of an audience: I've binned more than one after doing this. Members of the audience are very good at coming up afterwards and saying what they think about poems, which is always revealing and usually helpful, if sometimes painful! But back to the questions at hand: what was your favourite poetry reading, and what's the point of them for you?