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  • Writer's pictureMargaret Adkins Writing

Course Review | Ledbury Poetry Festival Linklater Method Voice Coaching for Poets 2021

Ledbury Poetry Festival’s fifth annual 'Linklater Method Voice Coaching for New and Emerging poets' was held online for the first time this year.

I was thrilled to be selected as one of nine participants who had applied for coaching in the hope of strengthening performance style. Voice coach, Françoise Walot led the sessions via Zoom over four Friday evenings in February and for two full Saturdays, ending the course on 6th March.

I was a little sceptical about being coached online at the outset. I worried that Zoom would thwart the physicality of voice coaching, and that being behind screens away from each other and our coach would cause me to flounder. I was wrong. Naturally, the lack of physical contact had some impact on us all, but our companionship was still able to flourish and we remained closely connected to Françoise. I learnt new and vital skills, and significantly for me, changed some personal perspectives about the voice that I have.

Sometimes being told what is obvious is a revelation. I had never considered the notion that actors speak the words of others, while poets speak their own, and the implications of that. Francoise encouraged us to connect with a desire to speak as much as the desire to write.

Exercises that focused on our internal structures for breathing and aimed at freeing and releasing the breath from tension, were different to any yoga exercises I have previously been taught. At the start of the course, I found some of the exercises triggered emotional responses and I became aware of what felt like a stone in my throat. One of the most beneficial aspects for me was working to soften that stone, connect with my breath and speak with more awareness of the words in my mouth, in the air and on the page.

Working with Françoise helped to identify unconscious habits of speech that interfere with the delivery of a poem to an audience. I would have loved longer 1:1 sessions, however the time we had for Françoise to critique us individually, I found invaluable and quite extraordinary.

If the course had been residential as usual, we would undoubtedly have gained from the intimacy of that experience and being able to interact. Nevertheless, I did find that being taught techniques while alone and in isolation encouraged reflection and self-awareness.

For me, voice coaching has done more than instil confidence and enhance performance; it has also changed the way I hear and see poetry on the page. I am now conscious of how each thought in a poem makes singular demands of the breath for conveying meaning, and must be considered separately to punctuation and poetic devices that structure the poem. As a result I am rewriting a set of poems that I had considered finished.

I am very grateful to Ledbury Poetry Festival for being given this opportunity and in admiration of Françoise Walot for her skilfulness at teaching her craft remotely. Should this course run again next year, all I can say to anyone thinking of applying is, "don't hesitate...apply." Apply!

Images: Margaret Adkins

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Margaret Adkins started writing when her nursing and midwifery career came to an end in 2015. She become a full-time student at the University of Worcester. She gained a BA (Hons) in Creative Writing & English Literature and an MRes in Theatre & Performance. Winner of the inaugural University of Worcester V. Press Prize, her debut poetry pamphlet Mingled Space is published by V. Press (2019).


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