About her Poetry Concerts


The poet, John Betjeman, when approached by composers for permission to set some of his poems to music is, I believe, said to have replied: ‘Poetry is its own music’. So, indeed, it is, and there are many poets, I’m quite sure, who prefer their words to fly in solitary glory, neither enhanced nor diminished by poetry’s sister arts.

But music is essential to my existence. In addition, there is a big difference between poetry being set to music and poetry being accompanied by music. In the former case, no matter how great, the poetry is always in danger of losing its identity - we talk of Parry’s ‘Jerusalem’ and rarely, Parry’s setting of Blake’s ‘Jerusalem’. I can understand Betjeman’s initial reluctance. By contrast, my poetry is accompanied by music - and thus, I hope, retains its identity. And the music? To my mind, beautiful music, beautifully-played can never be eclipsed, no matter how great the art that companions it.

The close comparisons between music and poetry first came to my attention while I was at university. I am not the first to have noticed it, nor the first to have believed, for a while, that they are identical. Of course, they are not - but they are very similar. They are, for example, both temporal art forms which is why they have the potential to move and dance so beautifully together. But that is not the only reason they work so well with one another. We use a very similar language to talk about both music and poetry. Rhythm is vital to both, and both poetry and music make use of mood, tone, dynamics, tempo and imagery, as well as many indefinable and elusive subtleties of nuances, shade and colour. When the poetry and music are well-matched we get, not the pleasing companionship of friends, but the deeper harmony of star-kissed lovers.