Sunday, 10 June 2012

The dialogue between music, poetry, and prose.

As some of you know, I spent last weekend at a Folk Festival, dossing about like an old hippy and generally enjoying myself. There was singing, and dancing, and storytelling. Some of the songs were new, some of the stories were old ...

And that got me thinking. I wonder how many of you have come across Les Barker. Click here for an extract of his work (those of you outside the UK, or who have never come across the shipping forecast, might struggle to understand in his first poem - fast forward, there is more). He has retired now, but used to appear with a small band called Mrs Ackroyd - who are still setting his poems to music and appearing at festivals (I couldn't find a link with clear diction, and most of the humour is in the wordplay) and are equally funny.

The point? The line between his poetry and the songs are often blurred. I have heard him speak his lines while a chorus sings behind him. And some of his poems melt into stories. This weekend I heard Ursula Holden Gill for the first time - she's a storyteller, who punctuates her performance with clog dances and songs. Her stories are poetic - such is the lyricism of her writing.

So where does song end and poetry begin? Or poems end and story begin?  And does it matter?

No - I would argue that it doesn't. Not in those early, primitive, playing-with-ideas days.

I know - publishers need to slot us into genres. It makes life easier for the marketing gurus. And, if we're chasing sales, then we have to attend to that eventually.

But creativity is different. It begins outside genre boxes, comes from unexpected places that can't be always be slotted into neat categories. We should be able to celebrate such creativity, to play with it, before putting on our sensible hat and thinking about the confines of genre.

And long may the festivals offer platforms to people whose work defies categorisation. (Or are you a planner - who begins with genre and works outwards from there? I'd love to hear a different point of view.)


  1. Sorry Jo, I can't give you a different point of view as I totally agree with you and loved the post. And I had never come across Les Barker so watching that little clip was a wonderful added bonus to cheer up a gloomy soggy Monday morning :) x

  2. Creativity does indeed sIt outside genre boxes but a lot of people shy away from writing in different genres and so they miss out on these nuggets. Sounds like the festival was inspiring and I also agree with you that there's little or no difference between song, poetry and story. Fascinating, isn't it.

  3. I agree with you about often the lines are blurred and should be. There is so many possibilities as long as we don't confine ourselves through labels of who or what we are...great thoughts Jo

  4. Thank you all - I'm glad it's not just me that loves the permission to let words and music out to play occasionally.