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Written versus the spoken word

“Sound is a very effective medium as the written word can only create so much depth and dimension,” says Angela Edgar, a London-based poet.

“The voice can add tone and colour, charm and drama and, of course, emotion; it tells a different kind of story.”

Angela regularly participates in London Spoken Word events – evenings where amateur and professional lyricists come together, step to the mike and share their poetry and statements of expression.

Intimates at the Poetry Café in Covent Garden is one such monthly occasion. Set in a small, low-key basement area, anyone who has penned their thoughts can pre-book a performance slot or fight their fears and put their names down on the night for the open mic session.

The evening begins with fun word games: rows of people are divided into groups and given sheets of paper with one line typed at the top, such as ‘My first love reminded me of…’ Each person adds their own line of words, culminating in one poem crafted by many hands and an array of experiences.

Through their eyes

One by one, as the poets step to the front of the crowd, an unfamiliar face becomes one that you feel you have known for years. They are more than just writers: in the space of a few minutes, they recreate their moments, experiences and perceptions and make the listener see the world through their eyes.

“I feel when you read something in a book, you put part of you into it; you create the picture and how it would sound or look in your head,” says Angela.

“But when you hear the same thing being read (maybe even by the person who wrote it), it’s just something more personal to me; you feel almost like you are ‘in their zone’ and can connect with their emotions and what they are reading or reciting to you as they speak.

“You hear it as it was intended to be heard and communicated,” she adds.

A variety of topics are sounded, from a poem called ‘I am a liar’ depicting the speaker’s unhappiness in her job but putting on a brave face, to another lady’s  dark experiences of working with young offenders.  The host, Kat Francois, pays a tribute to young black girls who struggle with accepting the way they look: “Rise, black girl, rise”, she repeats emotively.

Each and every person receives cheers and applause – part of which is a congratulation for being open, frank and unafraid.

There is a lot to be said about the sense of sound and the primal need for it to be heard. In the words of Angela: “Stories are often shared and passed down by oral tradition long before paper – for example, Africans and American Indians telling of their history and adventures.”

Writing helps a writer express and unburden, but giving words a heartfelt voice can have a different kind of power behind it, by commanding and holding a listener’s undivided attention.

 

Words & images by Monica Sarkar
Film by Stefania Barbaglio

Visit the Poetry Café, 22 Betterton Street
London
WC2H 9BX (020 7420 9887)
www.poetrysociety.org.uk
Nearest tube station: Covent Garden (Piccadilly line)

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