Memories of Kristin Linklater

I found out today that Kristin Linklater, world-renowned teacher of voice production, had very recently passed away. I felt incredibly sad about it because being taught by Kristin was a life-changing experience. I went from being an anxious reader to a confident one, thanks to Kristin.

In 2015 I was awarded a place on the voice coaching course organised by the Ledbury Poetry festival, just prior to the festival itself taking place. It was with a number of other poets, including Dorothy Lehane, Amy Key, Josh Ekroy, and Mona Arshi, and I was very grateful to be selected. I was also nervous, as I didn’t know what it would be like or what I would be doing.

It was at a beautiful place called Hellens Manor, which was like walking into a daydream fairy tale.

Hellens Manor | reduced price entry | Art Fund

Hellens Manor is an ancient family home dating back to the C11th. The course took place in its “recently refurbished Georgian Stables which sit within the landscape of lawns, meadow and paddocks. The rare 17th century octagonal dovecot, a physic garden, yew labyrinth, herb and kitchen gardens, woodlands and ponds are delight to the eye and nourishment for one’s spirit.”

We were surrounded by orchards and fields. It was so pretty; every view was nature showing off. We were staying in the lovely converted stables, and our lessons were in another large barn with huge timber beams. We were given delicious food, comfortable beds. It was peaceful, with lots of time to talk and enjoy each other’s company. The first night passed quickly. We met Kristin, who radiated energy and charisma, and her assistant Françoise Walot, who was equally charming and encouraging. Kristin reminded me of a Shakespeare quote from A Midsummer Night’s Dream, as she was small and elegant, but had a fire inside her with her witty quips and powerful anecdotes: Though she be but little she is fierce.

Then the next day we began and it was like being dropped into a fire for a nervous person. I had always hated being looked at or being centre of attention, even though I was interested in acting and performing. Quite a problem for a poet who wanted to be able to read her work well. The exercises which included thinking about opening the body and where the breath was coming from. We were taught that we should be falling in love with our breathing and our voice.

Loving my voice was an interesting part of the psychological journey, as I had often been fearful my voice wasn’t very good…even annoying. I also felt panicked so I would breathe rapidly and my voice would feel a bit like an enemy not a friend. At first, the exercises gave me feelings of excruciating self-conscious discomfort.

The first night I sat outside in the dark, with bats swooping above and the smell of half-asleep flowers in the air, and thought I might leave. I was scared to do this journey. However, with the support of my new poet friends I found the courage to go back into the barn the next day and do the exercises Kristin was setting. She was strong, confronting and took no nonsense about being scared, which was difficult for me but it was just what I needed. Kristin told me don’t be afraid, you can do this, you totally have the ability to learn this.

We had to memorise a poem and read it to each other, using the abilities we had learnt. It was a joyous occasion to hear my fellow poets all read so brilliantly, with such strong voices. A joy I won’t forget. We all looked to Kristin with thankful faces, and she radiated a calm feeling, as if to say ‘of course, I told you that you could do it.’ She was amazing. She gave us all a gift of confidence. I felt healed in many ways, when I thought about my relationship with my breathing, my anxiety and my confidence. The time spent with my fellow poets, particularly Mona, Dorothy and Amy who spent so long talking to me and supporting me in that beautiful place, was very emotional and I will always cherish it.

I’m thankful to the team at Ledbury Poetry Festival for giving me the chance to meet Kristin and so thankful to her for improving my speaking skills. She was an amazing person.


“Kristin Linklater is one of the most recognised names in the field of voice production for actors having published two leading textbooks: Freeing the Natural Voice: Imagery and Art in the Practice of Voice and Language (1976; revised edition 2006) Freeing Shakespeare’s Voice: The Actor’s Guide to Talking the Text (1992).”

Get to know your voice – it’s strong, it’s resilient, it’s expressive, it’s you…” —Kristin Linklater

Stunning Poetry in a Magical Setting – Michael Longley and Frank Ormsby

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Tuesday 26 May, Hellens Manor at Much Marcle, Doors open at 7pm for 8pm start (bar available)

 Michael Longley, a towering figure in Irish poetry, has been acknowledged as one of our greatest living poets: Seamus Heaney has described him as ‘a keeper of the artistic estate, a custodian of griefs and wonders’ and John Burnside as ‘one of the finest lyric poets of our century’. He has won the top literary prizes, including the Queen’s Gold Medal for Poetry, the Wilfred Owen Medal, the Whitbread Prize, and the TS Eliot Prize. The 75-year-old received a CBE from the Queen in 2010. His most recent collection is The Stairwell.

Frank Ormsby launches Goat’s Milk, a comprehensive retrospective of his work. Goat’s Milk is introduced by Michael Longley who describes Ormsby as ‘a poet of the truest measure… A plain-speaking, down-to-earth utterance may be the norm, but it teeters on the verge of taking flight, and sometimes gives way to an exquisitely refined lyricism.’

 Hellens Manor, Much Marcle, Nr Ledbury, HR82LY

Tickets are £9

Book via http://www.poetry-festival.co.uk/book-tickets/

Or telephone 0845 458 1743

Feral Theatre at Ledbury

feral

This is the description of the show (you can see why I was really looking forward to it!)

A sensory adventure inspired by the original ‘Sandman’ story. This is a world where dreams are turned on their heads and sleep is slipping out of reach … drift off in a warm bath of rich language and imagery. 

There was a really nice buzz before the performance. Once you entered the dark theatre you were led to a seat and given a blindfold. I am sometimes claustrophobic, but I felt totally comfortable; the people were so calm and friendly. Once seated and the sense of sight removed, what was left was touch, taste, hearing and sound. The voices of a male and female spoke soothingly and led you into an incredible journey through forests, gardens and seas. The words were like lines of poetry. Music played and water trickled. Each part of the journey had an accompanying sound effect so I could hear the sea or birds singing. To make this even more wonderful when the story talked of rain, gentle water was sprayed on me or during a party scene I was carefully handed a drink! At one part a warm, soft blanket was placed around shoulders.

It was rather magical. And these are only a couple of examples; there were interactive elements every few minutes. Strong scents were released so that I felt like I was really in the forest or by the sea. It was so vivid; I cannot fully describe how WONDERFUL it was. The closest comparison is the feeling of complete, relaxed harmony during savasana at the end of a really good yoga session. It is great that Ledbury Poetry festival books events like these because it makes poetry exciting.

Here is some more info about Feral Productions:

Feral Productions is an interdisciplinary company working across art forms in order to disinhibit the places we inhabit.

Mission

We aim to bring some life back into live performance and to disinhibit the places we inhabit.

Company Overview
We aim to make innovative, exiting, high quality performance work in non-traditional theatre spaces throughout the county. We do this in order to bring fresh light to the local landscape and heritage and encourage audiences to re-engage with familiar places, to attract people who would not otherwise visit a conventional theatre, and to immerse audiences in a completely unique and enriching experience.
and website link FERAL

The Shipwrecked House show at Ledbury

shipwreckedhouse

Last Friday evening I got lost in a sea-storm of feelings watching Claire Trévien perform her show The Shipwrecked House. I had already read the book of the same title, which I had enjoyed immensely.

This is the description of it from Claire’s website:

THE SHIPWRECKED HOUSE

Longlisted in the Guardian First Book Award
Anchors, shipwrecks, whales and floating islands abound in this first collection by young Anglo-Breton poet Claire Trévien. These poems are sketches, lyrics, dreams, and experiments in language as sound. Trévien’s is a surreal vision, steeped in myth and music, in which everything is alive and – like the sea itself – constantly shifting form. Fishermen become owls; one woman turns into a snake, another gives birth to a tree; a glow-worm might be a wasp or ‘a toy on standby’. Struck through with brilliant and sometimes sinister imagery reminiscent of Pan’s Labyrinth or an Angela Carter novel, The Shipwrecked House is a unique and hallucinatory debut from a poet-to-watch.

I was so glad to see the show in the Ledbury programme and I was excited to see how it would be staged and performed. The book has a wonderful feel of the sea about it, in that things wash and move from one thing to another but also in the use of sea imagery that laps into various poems. The images are changeable and fresh, with exciting and playful uses of form that make the book delightful to read and very interesting.  The poems also have a sinister element to them, the threat of flooding and ghost paintings for example; lines that make me shiver and want to read them again. However, the vivid imagery has stayed with me long after I have forgotten specific lines. Anchors in roundabouts, a scaled sea monster wrapped around a cello and whales beneath a house. There is also a feeling of loss and homesickness; an absence and awareness of time passing.

I really love Claire’s poem called Novella, you can read it here. It captures the joyful, expansive exuberance of being twenty-one, in love with love, weed and Rimbaud. It makes me feel nostalgic, so I guess I am getting old! It’s a great poem; these lines are my favourite:

‘The sky is all yours, you spy it through brambles
palpitating like grass you would like to caress…
You think the answer’s there to be unscrambled
if only the stars stopped changing their address.’

whales

The show opened onto a dark stage that was littered with debris; boxes, chairs and clutter. Ropes and netting dangled from the ceiling. It looked as if a storm had passed through there and the place had indeed been shipwrecked. I can’t remember now if it opened in silence or if there was the sound of the wind buffeting the place (I may have been imagining it from the atmospheric setting) but Claire entered from the left of the stage. She then, boldly, said nothing for what felt like ages. I mean, it was probably five minutes, but it seemed like an hour. She moved around the stage poking into boxes. Picking things up and then replacing them. Fiddling with a torch, then a lamp. The stage would become brighter as she turned on the different light sources. This was a strange but very effective beginning to a show. As a poet, the audience were expecting words and there was a feeling of puzzlement around me; a slight discomfort. It felt a little bit like we were invading the poet’s privacy as she gazed at items. She looked shell-shocked and there was a pervading feeling of sadness. Like coming across an abandoned or destroyed building and having no words to describe the loss and desolation around you. Then she began to speak.

She was poised and reflective, with a twinkle in her eyes. A wry and witty humour threaded through the poems and pinned the various magical, incredible images together. The words of the poems began to pinpoint specific items, feelings and memories; unpick the mystery of the storm battered stage set. It was strange sitting there, listening to what looked like a lost, sad, beautiful woman in a wet mackintosh and yellow dress reflecting on her family memories. Her grandmother who was an intelligent, fierce painter who lived in Brittany. The mood changed from nostalgic to slightly threatening. As a member of the audience I felt very privileged to be listening to this but also slightly intrusive; it felt like a kind of madness, a deep melancholy that comes from the grief of growing up and time passing, the death of a grandparent. I liked the poems that reflected on a child’s eye view of the world, how magical that is. The whales circling beneath the house. It was a flipped perspective and made it seem mythical and otherworldly.

The way Claire moved around the stage and the sound effects added to the feeling of being unsettled. Near the end there was a fierce storm and she rushed to fix the sail and ropes, her voice completely lost in the sound of wind and rain. I especially liked this because although I wanted very much to hear everything she said, it seemed extremely poignant; how things are lost in time and cannot be pinned down. It was a really special show and I urge everyone to see it if they can.

Claire reading her poem Whales.

 

 

 

Writing and Motherhood

Ledbury starts this Friday! Those words may mean nothing to most people, but to a certain type of person they cause a shiver of excitement and expectation. The kind of people who spend hours debating a line break or think that reading a thesaurus is a treat. Poets.

I am reading from my new pamphlet on Saturday, but before that I am chairing an event called Writing Motherhood. I was excited to be asked to do this because it is something that I can relate to as I have three children of my own and I have often had to fit my writing in around my role as a mother.

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The three poets who will be reading their work and debating the issues around the subject are Hollie McNish, Carolyn Jess-Cooke and Rebecca Goss. I have been thinking about it a lot, as I write poem edits whilst waiting at gym class for my daughter or make notes on the edge of my child’s old spelling practise. For me, writing and motherhood is intertwined and cannot be separated easily. It’s not easy being a mother who writes: two occupations that are equally time consuming and require me to be focused. I wouldn’t have it any other way though! I am looking forward to listening to the conversation that is generated about women who write and have children. How do they find the time? Does it make them a better writer? Or does it hamper them and stop them from achieving what they want? After I had the children time suddenly became very finite and precious so when I had a moment I would use it to write with a burning intensity, aware that I didn’t have long before I had to focus on the children. Come along and join the conversation on Saturday.

Writing Motherhood

Saturday, 5th July
11:00 am – 12:00 pm

£8.00

Burgage Hall

Does becoming a mother affect your creative life? Does a child ‘cost’ a female writer four books or profit her writing? Poets  discuss the various ways that motherhood has influenced their writing, and perform newly commissioned work in response to the social and political dimensions in which motherhood operates.