October 4th was National Poetry Day 2018, which came at a time of a huge resurgence of poetry writing and consumption in the UK. Poetry book sales have seen a 42% increase over the last 5 years which can only mean that the appreciation of poetry is booming in the UK. Even more encouraging is that the poetry market and poets themselves are diversifying – 1.4 million adults wrote poetry in 2015–16. In other words, this medium is reaching, and voicing the experiences of an ever-expanding section of society. This has absolutely been reflected in our output here at Strathmore, which in the past few months has included a wide range of poetry. Audiobooks are arguably particularly effective in conveying poetry through the medium in which it ought to be experienced – orally. As Kate Tempest, the electrifying wordsmith from South East London says, “people should read poems aloud even if they’re reading them to themselves.” According to Tempest’s edict, arguably the audiobook as a medium lends itself excellently to poetry. Having recorded Tempest’s breakthrough Brand New Ancients four years back, we were very pleased to be involved recently in the post-production side of the audiobook of her new collection Running Upon the Wires.
The ‘people’s poet’ John Cooper Clarke is a man who has spanned genres, art forms and mediums. It was a great honour to have him in this September to record his first collection of poems (and therefore first audiobook) in several decades – The Luckiest Man Alive. JCC’s characteristic performative oratory is central to the transmission of his work, so an audiobook is a really effective way of getting across what is a crucial aspect of the ‘Emperor of Punk Poetry’s’ legendary poems in a way that the written word alone perhaps does not.
We have also been part of a fresh reading of T.S. Elliot’s children’s classic The Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats. Lemn Sissay came in to give a new voice to the much-loved collection, and show case Elliot’s intricate, witty verse whilst attracting a new generation of children in the ever-growing children’s poetry market. In conjunction, we have been working on the Old Toffer’s Book of Consequential Dogs, written by Christopher Reid and read by Robert Bathurst. This charming verse shines a spotlight on London’s dogs where Elliot did not, and is brought to life by Robert’s warm and humorous reading. It’s been really enjoyable being part of both revisiting and building upon the poetry of such a seminal poet.
We’ve also been recording three anthologies. The comprehensive A Poem For Every Day of the Year and the smaller but equally engaging I Am The Seed: A Nature Poem For Every Week of the Year both present a reworking and re-representation of familiar poems, while including amongst them lesser-known pieces. Readers include Helena Bonham-Carter, Simon Russell Beale and Samantha Bond. Both books are aimed at bringing both classical and contemporary poetry to children and young people, but in practice appeal equally to grownups while the audiobook version makes these even more accessible.
Finally, and in contrast to the aforementioned anthologies, Chris Riddell’s collection Poems to Live Your Life By was read only by the talented Sam West. West had to perform the wide variety of voices present in the diverse poems present in the collection, written by writers from Shakespeare to Rumi to Carol Ann-Duffy. He did this really effectively, and with great skill – a skill he says has been honed and improved through reading to his children (see below for a video of the interview).
9th October 2018