Poet in residence

This term's poet in residence

Owen Sheers

A Village of Voices - Lynette Roberts By Owen Sheers
2 Jun 2009 - 02:16 PM

All of the films in this series have been shaped by the poems with which they engage, but perhaps none of them more so than this week's offering of Lynette Roberts's 'Poem from Llanybri'. The poem is an invitation to visit her village, written with a crafted, precise and yet colloquial voice and with a flexible focus that zooms from minute detail to sweeping views. All of these qualities are, I hope, reflected and followed in the film, but it's that notion of Robert's voice that I really hope we managed to translate into the medium of television.

Lynette Robert's is a poet who in my mind occupies similar territory as David Jones. Both poets are, i think, traditional modernists, or modern traditionalists depending on your perspective and where you want to place the emphasis. By this what I mean is that they are incredibly aware of the traditions, accents and forms out of which they are writing, and yet they also aspire to write truly modern poetry, poetry which knows where poetry has been but which also wants to make new paths, find its own routes to its moments of illumination and delight. In the case of Roberts her work in Wales is also backlit by her previous life in Argentina, by the light, colours and rhythms of that country. Added to these influences playing into her voice is her own curiosity and interest in the sound world around her, especially the dialect, phrases and rhythms of speech of the villagers in Llanybri. She wrote a very academic essay on the phonetics of the language of the village, but it's in her verse that this interest really takes off. In 'Poem from Llanybri' this means that although it's a poem born entirely of her own unique voice, I always feel I can also hear the voices of others behind hers - the greetings, comments and gossip of her friends and enemies in Llanybri - 'If you come my way that is.. a breath you can swank...it's treacherous the fen... It was because of this we were keen to fill the film with voices from the village and area now, weaving them between Lynette's poetry and letters. Underlaying all of this the director made sure that the strong, swinging four beat of Argentine tango kept swelling beneath the interviews and commentary. For us, in the medium of TV, this was the best way we could maintain that shadow of her South American influence. When you read more of her poetry, though, that influence comes through in a much more subtle and enjoying way. I'm not going to give any more pointers, because I really believe that many will relish discovering the layers of Robert's voice for themselves, but needless to say it adds remarkable depth and colour to her already vividly original voice, often in the most surprising of places...

2 Comments at the moment

Lorraine at 4 Jun 2009 - 10:49 AM

I had never come across Lynette Roberts poetry before this programme and now I fully intend to track down her work. I've enjoyed all the places and poets in the series.

AnneMarie at 4 Jun 2009 - 08:59 PM

Thank you so much for these programmes, Ive not heard of Lynette Roberts before either. Ive only just started writing poems since the begining of this year and I cannot seem to stop writing,(Im addicted I think)so its a blessing that lots of poetry programmes have been on bb4 lately. Im learning such a lot, Thanks Owen, Im really inspired and has left me wanting to find out more about these poets

Search for a poem or a poet:

My Archive

Create lists of your favourite poems and poets and share them with friends.

Browse all poets by name

View all poets

Browse all poems by title

View all poems

Glossary of poetic terms

View full glossary
Poet In Residence Archive

You are welcome to explore our archive of past residencies and read some of the lively and varied discussions you'll find there.

This part of the Archive is full of poems chosen specially for children. Click here to meet old favourites and make new discoveries.