On the 21st, the winner of the biennial 2012 International Poetry Competition by was announced from a shortlist of 24 poems, all of which were performed by the Live Canon ensemble in Greenwich Theatre, London.
Live Canon is an ensemble of professional actors who perform poetry, often accompanied with live music. Helen Eastman, an Oxford graduate and former Oxford Union president is the artistic director of this group, and said that one of the reasons she founded it was to “resuscitate the idea of knowing poems” from memory. Since its establishment, Live Canon has done recordings for the V&A, Ashmolean and toured throughout the UK including previous appearances at the Oxford Playhouse.
The Live Canon Poetry Competition was established four years ago to give contemporary and emerging writers a chance to be published, and the shortlist celebrates “work with fabulous aural quality” something I experienced myself as I watched the performances. Poetry, so often thought to be quite inaccessible, is shown in a whole new light through this ensemble and the 24 poems. Each piece became a piece of theatre with itstheir individal character.
The shortlist was hugely varied as the poems may be of any length and on any subject. For instance, one performance lasted about ten seconds while another, approached ten minutes. The topics ranged between weather, dance, Minotaurs, recipes and paths, with the overall winner declared as Andrew McMillan for his poem Jacob with the Angel. The guest judge Antony Dunn highly commended this poem as one which “went about business without any fireworks”.
Seeing 24 performances in quick succession was something I’d never experienced before and was a great way to put poetry, so often just on paper, into its aural context. For a fusion of poetry and theatre, Live Canon comes highly recommended.