A poem comes alive when it is read out loud, changes and with an audience it becomes three dimensional; poem, reader, audience. Poetic Voices is a sound archive for all poets so that as many people as is possible can hear them read their poem. I hope that it continues long beyond me so that it everyone can be heard for all time. At least that is my dream.
Looking into the future!
It began when I was puzzling over how visitors to the Dugdale Arts Centre could listen to poems. I struggled with the idea of a tablet with jukebox programme, exhibition stand but none seemed safe and stable and all were rather costly. I then thought “jukebox” and found a company who sold reconditioned pub jukeboxes that had a touch screen and Windows operating system on the computer and it weighed 90 kgs. so it would not walk! Once I had fitted two sets of earphones and mastered the mysteries of meta data the Jukebox Poetry was born!
The jukebox with Clive Jones and me looking rather too proprietorial!
The poems are loaded into an album of about 10 to 12 tracks which are then uploaded to the jukebox. So there are about 12 albums and I need to upload some more.
Back to Poetic Voices so far we have some 63 poets and about 150 poems. More are need so please contact me via the contacts page if you would like to have you reading your poems added to the site. It has hits from all over the world which is just lovely.
Just for fun have a listen to Polyglottal Londinium. It is an Audio Visual of all 28 translations of my poem Londinium. The idea came to me as I was travelling to Liverpool Street Station and the carriage seemed to be full of the world speaking at the same time. I did not understand a word but it was thrilling.
Enfield has long nurtured poets starting with Henry VIII. On October 1st this year 53 poets came together to voice their poems in 8 minutes slots between 10am and 7pm. It was the brainchild of Enfield poet Maggie Butt
Not only was it an exciting and vigorous day it finished on time! An impressive feat of organisation; formidable. It was held in the Dugdale Art Centre and a large part of the success of the project was due to the help and support given by both management and staff. The readings took place in the toy and games museum and in one of the photos you can see “scrabble” which was, for a long time,made in Enfield. The Centre is a good venue for poetry and Enfield Poets , who are poets in residence at the Dugdale, meet in one of the rooms on the first floor.
Getting ready to start.
The aim was to raise money for Enfield Refugee Welcometo enable a refugee family settle in Enfield. The original target of £4,500 – enough to settle one family – was quickly reached and the second target of £9,000 was then over taken and I am sure more than £15,000 will be raised. The money was channelled through the Just Givingweb site which will be open until December 2017.
The whole event was filmed by Ken Sabbarton, a marathon in itself. Nine hours of video would be too much so here is the video clip of my session. I fluffed the last verse of When There Were Gods. If you want to read the poem please click here.
Over the last 50 years, I have tried to learn several languages and though my French is passable and I once spoke reasonable Italian, “frustrated linguist” describes me well. Even at an early stage, I noticed that with each language I was a different person. This gives rise to the intriguing notion that there are many ideas, thoughts and concepts, feelings lurking within me that I cannot express as I do not pocess the appropriate language. What would the Twi me say, how would I feel in Hindi, how would I write poetry in Finnish? This difference alone makes it important, I feel, for our communities to have several languages. English yes for day-to-day and to maintain social cohesiveness but other languages to bring difference, strength and beauty.
Planning or conscious action is not my strong point, as Valerie would tell you, but in April last year I mounted an exhibition that is a metaphor for the benefit of difference. My poem, Londinium, in 28 languages printed on A1 posters, designed by Jools Barrett, at the Dugdale Centre, Enfield. A link to the index of all the poems is at the bottom of this blog or you can click here.
I wanted to celebrate the 300 languages currently spoken in London and the 450 English is derived from. Here is a list of the top 40 languages spoken in London
The fact that London’s population consists of people from such a variety of nations gives it great strength and vitality and, of course, London has, from the beginning been full of people from all over.
It was first built by the Romans in the early 40s CE and the legions and administrators were from all nations across the Roman Empire so right from the start London’s population has been diverse. This particular spot for Londinium was chosen as the Thames narrows here yet is still tidal so sea going vessels could sail or row upstream to dock and unload. It is still used to transport goods.
Though I am not sure how this yacht managed to berth in Trafalgar Square!
English owes its origins to migrants, the Angles, Saxons and Jutes who came to England in about 450 CE pushing the Britons west into Wales and Cornwall. The latter’s Celtic language is now mainly found in place names or geographic terms in modern English but is still alive as modern Welsh and Cornish. The early English language was pushed into the background by the NormanConquest in 1066 when Norman French became the language of power although Norman French was spoken in the Royal courts before the conquest due to the somewhat complicated relationship of the rulers either side of the Channel.
Post Conquest, English was the least important of the three languages mainly spoken in England namely Latin, Norman French and English. Welsh and Gaelic would also have been spoken to a degree and, no doubt, there were pockets of Saxon. It was Chaucerwriting in the 14th CE who started us along the path that has led to the dominance of English today; or at least, English and American.
I find thinking on the origins of language fascinating. When one of the proto human species became omnivore its teeth and jaw became smaller as it did not need to munch on seeds and roots. The reduction in size made the lips and tongue nimble enough to articulate sounds. Becoming bipedal caused a section of the brain to develop so as to enable this and also find the rhythm to walk This same section is used for music which led to vocal communication. The first Homo Sapiens in Africa about 200,000 years ago acquired a gene that enabled their brain to break holistic sounds of communication, to segment a stream of sound, into chunks which led to words. Speech is thought to have started to develop around 170,000 years ago and became embedded in Homo Sapiens around 50,000 years ago. It enabled co-operation and thinking which caused the Neanderthalsto become extinct as Homo Sapiens were just too efficient at living. This can be deduced from the explosion of art, decoration and ritual which needs social interaction and good communication For detailed information I suggest the fascinating book, theSinging Neanderthals by Steven Mithen.
The poem Londinium floated into my head as I was reading about London and I can recommend Peter Ackroyd’s books, London, the Biographyand London Under. There are others on my shelf but I particularly liked these. Boudicca burnt Londinium in 50 CE and there is still a line of burnt ash and iron between all the buried history of London and where we walk today. I love the idea of all the archaeology of London cupped in the line of ash from Boudicca’s burning and the pavements on which stroll and London has always been noisy. In the 17th Century the vigorous ringing of hand bells became a fashionable way to exercise adding to the noise of the smiths, wheelwrights, carpenters all hammering and crashing. Think of it, thousands of bells sounding everywhere in London all day and night. London has always been stinking, smoke laden, busy with tanners, burning rubbish ,the soap makers, human and animal excrement in the street, urine being collected and used to wash clothes in public laundries and all those unwashed bodies and bad teeth!
In its beginning the River Thames was very wide and dotted with islands or eyots. Building over the centuries has narrowed it to where it is today and the rivers feeding it covered over. You can see in these two photographs looking taken from The Eye, that the Thames basin is huge giving some idea as to how wide the Thames would have been.
Last year a French mother and daughter, friends of our grandson, stayed with us for their first visit to England. They were overwhelmed at how friendly and helpful Londoners were. London is friendly and accepting, this is its great strength which is why I ended my poem as I did.
This statue at Liverpool Street station is in memory of the Kindertransportwhich enabled Jewish children to escape Nazi Germany They were given homes all over Britain.
A friend, who is an Israeli poet, translated Londinium into Hebrew. I was very excited, a poem of mine in Hebrew! I then began to wonder, what could I do with it? I do not speak Hebrew so cannot perform it. If, I said to myself, I had a few other translations I could print them and put them on a wall. Well this thought led to another and another and 27 languages later I had the basis for an exhibition. Paul Everitt Head of Culture for Enfield, introduced me to the designer Jools Barret who produced some magnificent designs.
The translation process was interesting as metaphor and ideas are different in each language and I had many illuminating conversations with the translators. For the language notes I had with each poster I used two interesting and useful books; Dictionary of Languages by Andrew Dalbyand The World’s Major Languages edited by Bernard Comrie and, of course good old Wikipedia.
All the translations, including English, can be found by clicking here. Just click on the language in the list and you will find the poem on the page and with an audio recording of the poem being read in that language and if you scroll down, the poster and language notes from the exhibition. Before you visit these pages please view the video below. The idea came to me whilst travelling on the train to Liverpool Street Station. The carriage was full of people speaking in a multitude of languages at the top of their voices. I could not understand any of them but it sounded fun, was exciting.
Enfield Poets meet once a month for an evening of poetry with guests and poets from the floor. Originally meeting in Salisbury House and known as Salisbury House Poets, we changed to Enfield Poets when we moved to the Dugdale Centre in Enfield Town a different but great venue.
The guests for the Enfield Poets’ evening for 11th April were the three winners of our competition, Sylvia Rowbottom, Patricia McFarlane and Caroline Price. Each a different voice, each a good poet, each passionate and a good performer.
Poets from the floor in the open mic sectional are a favourite of mine. We are fortunate to have so many good poets who are regulars at our evenings of poetry. Guests often comment how much they have liked the quality and variety of our poets as well as being impressed with the Dugdale Centre. Again Enfield Poets are fortunate to be able to perform in such an agreeable venue whose staff are so helpful. As well as a good choice of rooms we can use, there is the theatre which is great for the occasional show we put on.
Next month the Guests are Hannah Lowe and Karina Vidler as well as, of course, our superb poets from the floor who will be out in good voice.