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LitFest Reviews - Chapter One: Michael Symmons Roberts' poetry reading

Michael Symmons Roberts Michael Symmons Roberts The poetry reading by Michael Symmons Roberts last Thursday evening (September 27) at the College, was - predictably - an excellent start to this year’s Marlborough LitFest.

 

Symmons Roberts read several pieces from his much praised recent collection Mancunia and then continued to engage his audience by thoughtfully answering the wide-ranging questions asked of him. The majority of these came from the many Sixth Form students present.   Here’s a glimpse of some of topics discussed:


The poet’s collaborative work with the composer James Macmillan prompted this question:  “Is there a discernible musicality in your poetry that composers respond to?”

Symmons Roberts replied: “Some composers can run roughshod over the rhythm of poetry, particularly if the poems form the libretto of an opera. But James Macmillan is empathetic to the inherent rhythm in poetry. We have worked a lot together and I hear his music in my writing”.

Asked when he began writing poetry, Symmons Roberts remembered a time at primary school, aged about six, when the class was asked to write a poem, and there was something about using words in a concentrated way that he really enjoyed. There was a freedom in not having to tie up the loose ends of sentences. One could just think about the words. 

He soon became ‘the school poet’. In his late teens, three poets 'lit his blue touch paper: Sylvia Plath, Dylan Thomas and especially John Berryman.

Question: “Should poems be read or heard?”
Answer: “Both!”

When asked about the public role of poetry, Symmons Roberts reflected on the fact that we don’t have a 'novelist laureate'. Poetry can meet the need we have to express deep feelings in words, and the need we have of a form of ritual. 

He went on to consider the role of theatre and film. Although verse drama was once at the centre of English writing, it is now non-existent. Indeed, today it might well be more possible to write a successful verse-film than a verse-play.

All told, the evening was one not only of beautifully crafted poetry, but also of stimulating discussion. Excellent value.   Mancunia by Michael Symmons Roberts is published by Cape.

 

 

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MYFC005
Camilla-2012-10-19152
Turin-Brakes6
Remebrance-18-3
Civic-Service-18
Sunset2
Hares017cropped
1stXV-and-others-with-Mayor
SBJ
JazzFestSat572
Pete-Gage-Band1
D812668
Sunset
Christmas-Lights15-11-20097
George-Wilding-301
Torch-2012-05-23093-
Marlborough-2013-04-18StPeters
Landscape
White-Horse
D4S0472
Musical-Time-Machine5
Remebrance-18-1
Scouting-for-Girls7
Remebrance-18-2
Duke-of-Kent086
Brazier
Inquisitive-sheep-in-West-Overton
Roving-Crows1
Ogbourne
Town-Hall-2011-05-0308-
Silbury-Sunset---10-06-08---07
Big-Bull
IMG9097
Bluebells-in-West-Woods-10-05-09---30
Brooks-Williams1
Mop-Fair---10-10-09---08
Marlborough-under-snow-from-above---Pete-Davies
Tina-May5
CivicSelfie1
Gordon-and-Sam
TdB-Pewsey044
Snowy-High-Street
Camilla-MSM
D4S9273
ARKManton-2012-01-1449-
IMG8472
4MI-2013-11-28030
Animals06