Well, today is another day and it’s time for me to share with you the ways I work on my speaking voice in order to make my spoken poetry the best it can be.
As I said the other day I not only learn my poems by heart, the speaking is an important part of composition. How do you know whether a line is right unless you say it aloud? To me, writing without speaking is like composing music without playing it – you need to know what it sounds like.
For me the voice is key and I work on it like a singer. I start with some vocal exercises (having done breathing exercises earlier as part of my yoga) which include going through all the sounds in the English language and practising some tongue-twisters. Then at the moment I’m adding some overtone singing to the mix. I just came across it and it’s amazing; you find a point in your voice where it actually starts singing in harmony with itself. If you don’t understand what I mean neither do I really, but it’s a little bit like singing and running a wet finger round a glass at the same time. Here’s a video about it:
I’ve been doing this for a week or two now and I think I can hear my own overtones but I’m not quite sure. She recommends doing this in the shower as a bit of background noise helps you to hear it apparently.
When I’ve done my vocal exercises I turn to the actual poems. It’s important that I refresh my oeuvre every so often because otherwise some poems will drop off the radar and I will forget them. My aim is to have every poem ready for performance so that I have something for any occasion. Usually I go through the whole book of recent poems and choose a few from my earlier book, either at random or following a theme, according to how I feel.
It’s hard to pursue the objective of absolute equality between page and verbal performance as people tend to put you in one category or another; like the publishers who returned my poems which I’d sent with the brief bio they requested. The bio mentioned my performances and their comment was that the rhythm didn’t come across on the page. I looked at those poems again as dispassionately as I could and I think they read the bio and made up their minds from there.
I have yet to encounter anyone who marries the page and stage with equal expertise: a case in point was a group I saw on Saturday night. I ought to say at once that they were great; thoroughly entertaining and original (imagine the Sensational Alex Harvey Band doing poetry and you’ll get an idea.) Led by poet Mark Gwynne Jones they were called Psychic Bread and were unlike any poets I’d ever seen. And I feel very churlish saying this but in the light of today’s blog post I wonder how the poems come off on the page? I’ve had a look but can’t find any in the public domain, so without buying a collection I can’t tell you. But I wonder.
So there it is: there’s a huge gulf between those who write for the page and those who perform on the stage and it’s a very foolish person who tries to bridge it.
That must be my cue to enter…