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A Straightforward Guide to Writing Performance Poetry
Wade, Stephen
Stephen Wade's book is a comprehensive and valuable guide for the 'wannabe' practitioner: eighty-eight pages with chapters on 'Putting Performance Poetry in Context', 'Monitoring the Preparation Required', 'Applying Working Methods', 'Acquiring Performance Skills', 'Working With Others' and 'Resources'.
Towards the end of this book is the line: 'Most poets still see poetry as a lonely, reader-based art. It is still intellectualised and still defined largely as the province of academics and critics.' This, sadly, is not just the view of poets. The man and woman in the street would probably agree that poetry is traditionally a bit snobby and esoteric: too many 'knowing' references, too many in-jokes, subject matter which is too melancholy/ private/ abstract/ up its own arse (delete as appropriate). When I give my F.E. students poems - poems which seem to me quite accessible - they often still ask, in all seriousness: 'Can you give us a translation?' Which is why 'performance poetry' - more immediate, more flexible and allied to more popular genres such as rap music and stand-up comedy, should be a very serious consideration for those of us already writing or those of us who are yet to begin. It's an exciting vehicle for pulling apart such prejudices and democratising poetry's appeal.

It's not pretending to be inspirational. But what it does do, while maintaining a sensible, pedagogical tone, is offer a lot of sound, practical advice.

At first I wished it contained some examples of poems which had worked in performance and some poems which hadn't - and perhaps a personal analysis of the reasons for their success or failure. Some anecdotes, even. But implicit in such an approach would be the instruction: 'do it the same way as I do it.' And it would be denying the whole D.I.Y. ethos of the 'straightforward guide' series of which this book is a part. The real value of this book is precisely in its impersonality, its non-prescriptiveness. It's a description of the new terrain and a check-list of the items needed for getting there. But it is up to us what route we take. And it is up to us to pull on our boots and walk.

Bored of the page and itching for the stage? Then it's probably in your interests to buy this book.

Richard Goodson

Additional Information:
Straightforward Publishing Ltd
Issue Number:
ISBN: 1 899924 92 2
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