Thirty poets from around the world read to you in person. This is a new concept in publishing: your own personal poetry festival brought into your home. Each poet reads to you for about ten minutes – up to half a dozen poems chosen from across the range of their work.
“In Person” is a collaboration between Bloodaxe Books and award-winning film-maker Pamela Robertson-Pearce. Her style of filming combines directness and simplicity, sensitivity and warmth – the perfect combination for these intimate readings. It is as if the poet were sitting in the room with you, reading just to you, and sometimes saying a few things about the poems.
Apart from one recording taken from a live public performance, all the films present informal, one-to-one readings. They enhance your appreciation of the poetry. You hear how the poems sound; you see how the poets read and present their work.
T.S. Eliot once described poetry as ‘one person talking to another’, while W.H. Auden believed it was essential to hear poetry read aloud, for ‘no poem, which when mastered, is not better heard than read is good poetry’.
“In Person” presents the oral art of poetry in that spirit. There are four hours of readings on two DVDs pouched inside the back cover, and all the poems are printed in this book. “In Person” celebrates 30 years of poetry from a pioneering press.
Founded in 1978, Bloodaxe has published nearly a thousand titles by three hundred writers. Until now you wouldn’t be able to see or hear readings by many of Bloodaxe’s international range of poets. “In Person” makes that possible for the first time, presenting readings by 30 essential voices from Britain, Ireland, America, Spain, Hungary, Palestine, Pakistan, China, New Zealand and the Caribbean.
Four out of the 30 short films present the poets’ work bilingually. Menna Elfyn’s reading alternates between her Welsh poems and their English translations. Joan Margarit reads in Catalan in tandem with his translator Anna Crowe reading her English translations.
Palestinian poet Taha Muhammad Ali reads in Arabic and then re-inhabits each poem as it is read in English by his translator Peter Cole. Yang Lian introduces his work in English, and reads the poems in Chinese. This anthology presents all their poems in both languages in a parallel-text format, enabling you to follow either language as the poems are read on the film.
All the other readings are in English only, and in many varieties of English which will add greatly to your enjoyment and appreciation of the poetry: not just poems read in Scottish, Welsh and Irish English by Jackie Kay, W.N. Herbert, Gwyneth Lewis, Brendan Kennelly and Micheal O’Siadhail, but also George Szirtes’ Hungarian-inflected English, Benjamin Zephaniah’s melding of Jamaican and Birmingham, and the Caribbean lilt of John Agard and James Berry. The musical range of American voices is just as diverse, ranging from urban Detroit (Philip Levine) to the Ozark Mountains (C.D.
Wright). There’s also a ‘bonus track’: a short film of Bloodaxe’s first poet, Ken Smith, made by Ivor Bowen just before Ken’s untimely death.