Today, in our regular feature, we are joining in with the BBC’s centenary celebrations by sharing two poems from The Sound Recordist by Seán Street.
The sequence of poems in The Sound Recordist is based on Seán’s lifelong career within the radio industry. It is an exploration of sound, described by Kevin Gardner of the The Wild Court Review as a primer on the nature of hearing.
Seán is a poet, radio practitioner, teacher, and a writer of many prose
works that explore the philosophical nature of sound. He spent his schooldays
in Sheffield and student years in Birmingham where he embarked on a career
as an actor, initially at the old Birmingham Repertory Theatre, before moving
into radio. He has published nine full collections of poems, the latest of which,
Camera Obscura (Rockingham Press, May 2016,) examines his
preoccupation with time, space and communication, as did his anthology of
radio poems, Radio Waves (Enitharmon , 2004). His latest prose work is The
Sound of a Room: Memory and the Auditory Presence of Place. (Routledge,
2020.) Between 2017 and 2019, Palgrave Macmillan published his Sound
Poetics trilogy: Sound Poetics (2017) Sound at the Edge of Perception (2018)
and The Sound Inside the Silence (2019). Other prose includes The Poetry
of Radio – The Colour of Sound (Routledge, 2013), which was published in
2013, followed by The Memory of Sound – Preserving the Sonic Past, also by
Routledge, (2014). In 2015 Rowman and Littlefield published an updated,
extended and revised edition of his 2006 work, The Historical Dictionary of
British Radio. Other prose includes The Dymock Poets (Seren, 1994, new
edition, 2014) and The Wreck of the Deutschland (Souvenir Press, 1993), an
historical study of events surrounding the writing of Gerard Manley Hopkins’s
great poem. He is a regular collaborator with the English choral composer,
Cecilia McDowall and their work is published by Oxford University Press.
Cecilia and Seán are currently engaged on a major three-part work
commissioned by Glasgow School of Art Choir, to be premiered in 2022. In
the Spring of 2020, BBC Radio 3 commissioned their work, Photo 51, about
the crystallographer Rosalind Franklin.
Wild track they call it. The sound
of air going on round us.
The moment happening while
our back’s turned. To get away
from it, build a box. Time switched
on by a red light, its walls
suddenly listening live.
Perfect acoustic silence,
carte blanche. The infinite page.
A blank empty room filled with
it the wide transparent space
where the wild track waits,
beating wings on the air.
Notes on Using the Studio
Listen to each person you meet here
as if what they say is the last thing you will ever know.
But question all clubs – fellowships can breed closed factions.
Celebrate the clean line of pure thought,
but please beware the avenging mafia of fixed opinion.
Observe how your silence interrogates noise
and how your attention questions its decoration.
Here there is ambience beyond ornament.
Warning: meaning lies between things. Take great care.
All sound is electric. This machine proves it.
The Sound Recordist is available from our store now – The Sound Recordist by Seán Street – Maytree Press