THE POWER OF POETRY | IMTIAZ DHARKER

THE POWER OF POETRY | IMTIAZ DHARKER

Reading a poem is like opening a door, and a good teacher can use it to open up whole new rooms in the mind. It’s often enough for the students just to know that poetry is not an inaccessible mystery but something that speaks about the world they live in, and that what they think counts.

I find that more and more young people are turning to poetry, as well as the shared experience of live readings. When I write a poem I have to read it aloud to know if it works. That’s the only way to check if the music is there, and if it sounds like a true voice.

Reading the poem aloud makes it possible to detect the wrong note and find the rhythm. Ideally, I would like people to hear the poem read in the voice of the poet – the breath, the pauses, the accent – and then go away and rediscover it on the page. For me, one of the greatest pleasures is hearing a poet, perhaps half-understanding, then finding the book and taking time to delve into the poetry.

That’s the idea my husband Simon Powell had when he started ‘Poetry Live!’ Every year six poets travel around the country reading to thousands of students. They arrive in boisterous hordes, seeing it as a day off school, but as soon as the poets start reading, they listen in pin-drop silence, and their questions afterwards show that they really have been paying attention. As much as anything else, they see that the poets are real, living people talking about things the students recognise in their lives, in language they understand. Instead of being just an exam question on a page, the poem becomes a lived experience.

When we stop and listen to each other’s voice, we make a still space in the world. That’s a space for poetry, and it is needed now more than ever.

Imtiaz Dharker is a poet, artist and documentary film-maker. She was sharing her love of poetry with students at Fairfield High School on Friday 24 November 2017 as part of Hay Festival Winter Weekend.