Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Poetry please

I have always loved poetry, even the stuff that doesn't rhyme! Learning poems by heart and being able to recite them out loud was something that we would do at junior school and the practice was part of the schools annual Eisteddfod. It was good for memory, good to develop confidence of public speaking and, for the more dramatically oriented, an opportunity for an early performance.

Whist I cant claim to have a huge back catalogue committed to memory there are still a few that stick with me and it is fun to be able to trot them out as a bit of a party piece. They have served me well at various Poems and Pints nights where an impromptu recitation has been rewarded with a drop of something from the bar. Interestingly enough when I suggested to a group of friends this was something everyone should be able to do, recite a poem that is, I did get some rather blank looks and I fear it was another of those opportunities for them to reinforce their view that perhaps I am a bit odd! On reflection most of these friends were considerably younger than me and we, as group, had just ridden a long way across Cuba on push bikes, so perhaps it was not a typical sample.

So imagine my surprise and happiness when I discovered that the BBC were running a competition called Off By Heart for school children aimed at introducing them to the joys of poetry memorized and recited out loud. The wonderful selection of poems has some enduring classics, The Way Through The Woods - Kipling, The Listeners - de la Mare amongst others that I recall from school, and some more contemporary stuff from the likes of Benjamin Zephania. Championed by the wonderfully named Daisy Goodwin this is surely one of those initiatives that is so welcome, so sensible ye and so entirely obvious it rather makes you wonder how it ever needs to be revived at all.

The BBC have the ability to shoot themselves in the foot sometimes and to be sure it is not the institution that it once was and thsi is to theri proudest week, but on this occasion I applaud them, and Daisy of course!

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Remembering Not to Forget

Here at TESCAPE we believe that the amount of material that can benefit from being lifted from the page through spoken word is broad and rich. So I was particularly pleased to come across an initiative by the National Archives to produce a series of podcasts that commemorate the armistice of 1918 that ended the First World War. It is right that we remember the anniversary of such an important event that brought to a close such a grim period, and giving voice to the words that detail some of the human stories of that war has a particular power.

The podcasts are relatively short and so far have covered some diary and reportage pieces detailing the reality of being part of a fighting unit in the maneuvering and skirmishing of the conflict and draw upon the materials held at the Archives in Kew . But one of the most interesting, for me, was the very first pod which is a fascinating account of correspondence (the letters being read) between a war widow and the ministry, in her efforts to get an up lift to her pension and allowance. In between the starchy language and letter writing style of the time there is a desperate human story, a tragedy that seems to be made more so by the apparently mundane circumstances of the officers death ( if death can ever be mundane) in a conflict so renown for its brutality and senseless waste.

This initiative is a wonderfully evocative and appropriate way of helping to remember not to forget by bringing a human voice to a subject that can seem increasingly distant. I for one will continue to subscribe and wear my poppy with pride as we remember the sacrifices made by so many some 90 years ago.

The series is available as an RSS feed here, and I would strongly recommend it.