Writer Helen Dunmore, Poet Laureate Andrew Motion and Channel 4’s Jon Snow came together on Monday 15th November in St-Martin-in-the-Fields to discuss with Francine Stock their fascination for a particular human voice that has inspired them.
For Helen Dunmore it was the voice of Thomas Hardy that spoke to her from a young age, both through poetry and prose,
as she responded to their similarity of background and situation. She was interested greatly in the way in which the voice acts on the ear and to demonstrate read out loud Hardy’s moving poem The Voice (‘Woman much missed, how you call to me, call to me…”). Of particular interest to her was how both the images and the rhythms in the poem, written for Hardy’s first wife, unite and encourage the reader to respond to Hardy’s haunting, ironical and powerful voice, a voice she compared to Orpheus’, briefly bringing life again to his lost Eurydice.
The Chair, Francine Stock, continued to explore the relationship between sound and sense from several aspects.
Questions from the audience broadened the discussion to the subject of forgotten voices – the unheard sounds of the lonely, the oppressed and neglected; Jon Snow responding to these thoughts beggared the question of whether we need to tune out certain voices – could we really cope if we really listened to the voices of grief? And yet, acknowledgement was made of the connective power of voice, even in the direst of times and situations.
Finally the guests were encouraged to choose their ‘Desert Island’ sound. Helen Dunmore chose the sound of a snatch of her daughter laughing, for Andrew Motion it was Philip Larkin reading his poem, and, ever the gregarious one, Jon Snow chose a choral heap of voices, to remind him in his solitude of the complex variety of human voices that we hear.
Many thanks to the ENO Word Series, Liam Browne, and all the speakers for making the evening possible.
Report by Louise Curran
Originally posted with the url: www.englishpen.org/events/reportsonrecentevents/listentothis/