By Jonathan Davidson
Sometimes you just have to say what you mean.
This blogpost is designed expressly to tempt the many tens of thousands, millions really, probably billions, who have not signed up to come to my talk and discussion at the Kendal Poetry Festival, to do just that. The virtual auditorium is spacious and every seat is in the front row or in the public bar, depending on how you arrange your personal living space.
I can see I'm going to have to be a little bit more persuasive.
Let me start by mentioning that I actually need the assistance of four citizens.
What I am after, should anyone be inclined, is to have four people make an audio recording each of one of the poems written by me that are in my book, A Commonplace . I say 'by me', as A Commonplace also contains poems by other poets and I don't have the copyright permission to have those recorded. My publisher has allowed me to give temporary license only for my own poems to be recorded. A simple recording on a phone will do, and if I get the four I'm after I'll share them during my event. That'll be nice. You can hear some previous versions here.
Why might I want to do this?
Well, I am sick of the sound of my own voice. I'm fine with writing and fine with talking, but performing my poems is increasingly of less interest to me. It is not just the sub-castrato-esque timbre of my voice, but the fact that when I read my poems myself I know how they are going to sound, and I would actually quite like to be surprised. One should always strive to be surprised by ones own poems. Having them read by a perfect stranger, perfectly, is a good way to cure the hiccups.
Going further, I am interested in the way in which poems slough-off the chrysalis of their creators and engineer their own butterfly lives, flitting from mind to mind, beautiful but largely beyond reach. This unoriginal metaphor which I have just tried to capture in the sea-side holiday 50p fishing net of my imagination, also offers me the image of a butterfly pined to a board to await the inspection of the many. Dead pretty, but dead.
To be more exact, asking someone else to speak a poem is a test of the poem's worth. Without our accent and manners, and even with the sub-text and back-story, the poem is left to take flight or fall to the earth. Does it sound any good? I am modern enough to believe that poetry should sound good, not just because good sounds are lovely but because good sounds make good sense memorable, and the last thing a poem wants to be is forgotten.
I speak as if a poem is not anything to do with a poet. Of course, this is not so, and in A Commonplace I do my damnedest to make sure that I am known to the reader through a book-length commentary, which is certainly a product of a butterfly mind. But, surely it is an act of noble humility to present a poem to the world, with all the necessary 'means of understanding', and then to bow politely and step away. I call this a revolutionary act, to offer a poem to The Poetry Commonwealth and not to care too much about claiming kinship.
You’ll have spotted that what I have suggested there is partially nonsense. The book, and so the poems, will still cost you £9.95 (unless you are a pal, in which case I can source you one for £9.90) and I would be grateful for my name to remain attached to any of my poems, and I am not throwing the poems on the internet as if were of no value. But what I am suggesting, is that hearing people other than ourselves read our poems is really very good, and if four of you were kind enough to do that for one of my poems I would be grateful.
Also, there's a free badge to the lucky four chosen!
Wut? A badge? Why didn't you say?
Yes, a badge. A Commonplace badge.
What do I need to do take receipt of such an item?
Simply record one of my poems from A Commonplace and send the recording to me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I will select four and do the rest. The deadline is 12:00 GMT, Friday 19th February 2021. And if you need to buy the book let me know and I can freight one over to you at a moment's notice (once the lucre is in my strong room) or you can buy a copy from https://poetrybusiness.co.uk/product/a-commonplace/ where you can also get the e-book.
The event, titled A Commonplace - Poetry, Commentary & Ephemera is on Thursday 25th February 2021 from 14:00 to 15:00 GMT. You can book here.