Do poets need voice coaching?

In 2015 Ledbury Poetry Festival will also offer voice coaching to poets for the first time.

Katha Pollitt on the perils of the poetry reading: ‘Am I the only person who finds it hard to follow an unfamiliar poem when I hear it read out loud and don’t have the text in front of me? Even when reading to myself at my own pace, I might have to go over a poem several times to really get it, but at a reading, the poems whizz by unstoppably-- no chance of a second hearing...’

Poets are not always known for their delivery and the image of a poet shuffling papers and mumbling their poems does, however unjustly, endure. At Ledbury Poetry Festival high-quality sound and light; events combining conversation and readings; the use of sound, visuals and other elements, make listening easier and more rewarding. In 2015 Ledbury Poetry Festival will also offer voice coaching to poets for the first time.

On 24 – 26 May 2015 four emerging poets will have the opportunity to attend a challenging and transformative voice coaching workshop led by the renowned Kristin Linklater, who has worked with actors including Donald Sutherland and Sigourney Weaver. This workshop enables poets to learn how to access their own authentic voice when speaking their poems. According to Jacqueline Saphra, who attended Linklater’s masterclass at Cove Park, ‘I feel completely different when I perform my poetry now, and I’m more confident at speaking, rather than reading my poems. It sometimes feels as if I’m encountering them, and the original impulse that started them, for the first time.”

Poets who participate in the voice coaching in May 2015 will be invited to perform in the 2016 Ledbury Poetry Festival. This is part of a wider programme of support and opportunities for new poets, from a young poet in residence scheme, to readings that pair new poets with established voices and a series of 20 minute events that focus on new poets, often published by small presses.  

While the Festival invests a lot of time, energy and thought into programming high-quality, engaging events there is also, as David Groff writes in ‘undeniable power in simply having to listen to words that are measured out at a specific pace, don’t always make marketable sense, require you to sit still, summon only your ear and not your eye, and unfold, fleetingly, in the company of others.’

The Ledbury Poetry festival New Writers’ Programme is funded with support from the Jerwood Charitable Foundation.


Further Information: Chloe Garner,