I’d just like to reassure you, before we go any further, that I’m not about to confess details of my unsuspected dark-side. While I may have, in the past, enjoyed overhearing conversations on public transport, and in cafes and restaurants, those occasions were purely accidental, and largely unavoidable.
I’m not currently so desperate to feed my habit that I’m sneaking across county boundaries to lurk in gardens in an earwigging-Tomasina fashion. I shan’t need to, thanks to Simon Armitage’s BBC pod-cast recordings. Where would I be without my radio?
As a fellow shed owner, and user, I was instantly drawn to the title, The Poet Laureate Has Gone to His Shed. If my first thought was that I would be listening to a monologue, the blurb gave me a list of eleven guests, and when I checked the date, the series had been made before the lock-down. Two unrelated people able to safely connect, in a small space? Ahhh.
Add to that the idea of our Poet Laureate chatting when he was meant to be writing, and it’s certain that I’m going to drop in to hear what’s said.
The writing that is supposed to be happening, during shed-time, is a translation of The Owl and the Nightingale from middle-English. It is, Simon Armitage explains, a comic, medieval debate. I take it that the poem triggered the idea for the pod-casts.
I stumbled across episode nine, on Saturday evening, because I’d left the radio playing while I tidied up, and caught a repeat broadcast. His guest was new to me. I’ve clearly not been listening to what’s happening in the arts, because Simon described Kate Tempest as multi-talented. She’s ‘a spoken word artist’ ,but that seems to include being a poet, playwright, rapper and novelist. Phew.
He might have added, conversationalist to that list. Time passed so quickly, I hardly noticed my chores, and was surprised to find I’d taken an hour to do them.
What did Simon and Kate talk of? All sorts. It was a lovely, gentle, discussion, about the nature and basis of their art, and backgrounds. It was wordsmiths using words to think about the power of words, but it was also a demonstration of the art of conversation. There was a focus, but there was also freedom to roam across topics, to explore.
To finish, though, I want to focus on writing, because as the recording reached the end, Kate said she had something she wanted to say to Simon, and us listeners. Her thoughts seem to me to apply to other forms of producing and consuming literature, and music.
I feel like I’m a novice, that I have so much to learn. Every time I read a poem I’ve got no idea why it does to me, what it does. When it’s a great one, you know. Sometimes it feels like the most mysterious of forms. Even though I have all this experience of doing it in a certain way, there’s so much I…. it makes me feel so young, all the time, when you’re at the foot of a great poem…
Simon’s reply? ‘Actually, if we knew what we were doing, it wouldn’t be interesting, would it…That journey, that’s why I’m in it. It’s not the product, it’s the process…’
Oh, the joys and compensations of being a radio listener. I shall need to ration those other ten interviews carefully.