The poems I most enjoy listening to - and some where the recording session is one that I particularly cherish.
When I play on my fiddle in Dooney.
Folk dance like a wave of the sea;
My brother is priest in Kilvarnet,
My cousin in Mocharabuiee.
I passed my brother and cousin:
They read in their...
Pure delight. Thank goodness Yeats' isn't one of the lost voices of twentieth-century poetry!
The secret of these hills was stone, and cottages
Of that stone made,
And crumbling roads
That turned on sudden hidden villages
Now over these small hills, they have built the...
Such clear memories of recording Stephen Spender at his London home. He read, as if at an intimate soirée, to his wife, his Faber editor (Christopher Reid) and me. The recording engineer, tony O'Leary, was at the back of the room. I needed to check that Spender was reading the poems accurately so kept looking down at my copies of the text - but that seemed impolite when he was reading to us, looking each of us in the eye in such a kindly way.
He enjoyed the process and agreed to record more poems three months later. All the arrangements were made and then Spender died, while making his selection of the poems he would read, at home the evening before we were due to return.
I imagine this midnight moment's forest:
Something else is alive
Beside the clock's loneliness
And this blank page where my fingers move.
Through the window I see no star:
I also recorded TH reading this magnificent poem. Very intersting to hear this reading - a little breathless in the tension of a public reading, it seems to lack the quiet, watchiful intimacy of his studio recording but it's thrilling nevertheless!
As I walked out one evening,
Walking down Bristol Street,
The crowds upon the pavement
Were fields of harvest wheat.
And down by the brimming river
I heard a lover sing
Under an arch...
Memories of hearing Auden reading at the Festival Hall (he'd joined the advertised line-up mainly, I think, for the enjoyment of hearing Ogden Nash reading) and especially in Great St. Mary's Church in Cambridge: we arrived late, just in time for an extra row to be added for us right at the front, right under the pulpit where Auden stood.
Since the primary school is next door
You can't help passing the playground
But don't you smile at the children
Whether a small girl or a little boy
Don't you even look
You know what...
The playground was, indeed, just across the road from the Enrights' flat. The sound of the children enjoying their break can be heard far in the background during some of Dennis's readings. Throughout the recording, his French wife sat on the back of the sofa, looking out of the window to keep an eye on anything or anyone who might make too much noise and, on more than one occasion, she stopped the recording to tell us that a noisy car had gone by even though it wasn't actually noisy enough to intrude onto the tape. The only thing that intruded was her interruption! Exasperating but hilarious - and they were both very welcoming, giving me a charming lunch before we got down to work.
I'll take your hand, the left,
and ask that it still have life
to hold my hand, the right,
as I walk alone where we walked,
or to lie all night on my breast,
at rest, or to...
We managed to arrange this recording (at the BBC Studios in Manchester) in time to add it to the Archive on the day when it was announced that Carol Ann was to be Poet Laureate, succeeding Andrew Motion.
It Is Here
What sound was that?
I turn away, into the shaking room.
What was that sound that came in on the dark?
What is this maze of light it leaves us in?
An extraordinary privilege to be working with Pinter. He seemed physically quite frail: I was nervous when he had to step over the threshold into the studio and had my arm ready to catch him if he stumbled. The concentration of his reading was terrific: his voice was husky (and we had to remove a lot of mouth noises afterwards) but completely clear.
There is much that should be altered here.
The cloud in the left-hand corner
is not really necessary.
The two people who stand by the door
of the farm look far too homely.
I would transfer...
We recorded in her little bungalow in Sussex. A happily memorable afternoon in her company while her husband, suffering from Alzheimer's disease, was in the next room with their daughter.
Way down Geneva,
All along Vine,
Deeper than the snow drift
Love's eyes shine:
Mary Lou's walking
In the winter time.
Red boots on, she's got
Red boots on,...
I love this exuberant, sexy poem, read with a wonderful sense of its rhythm. Some time after the Archive was launched, I had an email from Mary-Lou herself, asking if I could put her back in touch with Kit. He was, of course, delighted.
Not precisely, like a pylon or
A pop-up toaster, but in a general
Way, stuck in the mud.
Not budding out of it like gipsies,
Laundry lashed to a signpost, dieting on
Nettles and hedgehogs...
The first Poetry Archive recording, made in U.A.'s and Rosie Bailey's house in Wotton-under-Edge over tea and biscuits with the birds singing merrily outside on a Spring morning.
Half my friends are dead.
I will make you new ones, said earth.
No, give me them back, as they were, instead
with faults and all, I cried.
Tonight I can snatch their talk
from the faint...
Walcott was wonderfully relaxed in the studio - almost casual except for the fact that his readings are perfect in every detail, which has to be the result of complete command. A big, friendly presence. I remember in particular taking him to his car at the end of the session and, since he had particularly asked to be paid in cash, handing him a brown envelope containing ten £50 notes.
Pike, three inches long, perfect
Pike in all parts, green tigering the gold.
Killers from the egg: the malevolent aged grin.
They dance on the surface among the flies.
Or move, stunned by their...
I didn't make this recording of Pike but I did work with Ted Hughes on four different occasions. As I listened on the radio to his Memorial Service at Westminster Abbey, which ended with his voice reading Fear No More the Heat of The Sun, I was remembering him recording it in the tiny third studio at the Audio Workshop. I remember breaks for tea and chat, him talking about the terrible teaching his children had suffered at school and, after he'd recorded Full Moon and Little Frieda, enjoying my description of little Amy, holding on tight to the fence post when I told her that the movement of the sun down to the horizon was caused by the rotation of the earth she was standing on. I remember too that the demands he made on himself as he worked at a recording were unparalleled by any other poet.
They are waiting for me somewhere beyond Eden Rock:
My father, twenty-five, in the same suit
Of Genuine Irish Tweed, his terrier Jack
Still two years old and trembling at his feet.
The most memorable recording session so far. Physically very frail but mentally wonderfully alert, it was clear, as Charles read his poems, that he was reading each of them for the last time. There were very few that he could read to the end without bursting out laughing (I Saw A Jolly Hunter) or weeping (Eden Rock). I love his throw-away comment at the end of the reading of this poem. Andrew M once saw it printed on a classroom wall as if it's part of the poem.
The warping night air having brought the boom
Of an owl's voice into her darkened room,
We tell the wakened child that all she heard
Was an odd question from a forest bird,
Asking of us, if...
A wonderfully scary demonstration of the tiny gap between the comfort of a child's bedroom and the violent world outside it.