How does a poet fall in love with words?

We each have our own routes into language, our own love stories. Being a typical slow starting 7-10 year old boy reader, I was bought a boxed series of Puffin war stories one Christmas in the mid 1970’s. This cardboard pack included ‘The Silver Sword’ and my favourite, the incredible ‘Fireweed’ by Jill Paton Walsh who also wrote ‘The Dolphin Crossing’. After being read these in bedtime instalments by my dad, I read them for myself. I was hooked.

We could go back further. I suppose that even before I started reading books, the lyrics, hymns and nursery rhymes I heard and sang influenced how I write today. Perhaps the cadence and rhythm of sounds heard in the womb shape us.

In the first few minutes of his BBC radio 4 programme ‘Bards of the Back Straight’ Paul Farley gives an insight into his (on the face of it) unlikely route into an obsession with words via horse race commentary. If you missed this programme and are interested you should be able to listen to this programme again on i-player in a few days.

With audible relish Farley explores the connections between poetry and sports commentary highlighting the importance of tone, rhythm and cadence.

This programme is another in a series radio programs in which Farley seems to be engaged in a mission to take poetry out of ivory towers and show how close it is to other aspects of everyday life. Via interviews with commentators, Farley explores the use of the voice as an instrument and its links to rapping, storytelling and toasting.  Whether you agree or not with Farley’s analysis and his connections, his passion and understanding of his two chosen subjects is undeniable.


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