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Freeing the Natural Voice

Words by Maya Chowdhry
Headline image from Pixabay (CC0 Public Domain Licence)

I was very excited to be selected by Ledbury Poetry Festival to attend the Linklater method voice-coaching workshop, funded by The Fenton Arts Trust, after Peepal Tree Press put me forward for the scheme. So off I went into the deep green of Herefordshire.

We began the workshop reading a poem in our 'natural' voice and talking about our impetus to read our poetry, which flowed into a general conversation about communication, poetry and why we write.

Realising that the exploration was going to involve some soul searching of my inner mirror I ventured out to explore the intriguing surroundings at Hellens Manor, Much Marcle.

Our tutor was Francoise Walot, a very experienced Linklater voice coach, who had worked with Kristin Linklater to adapt her philosophy and method, 'Freeing the Natural Voice', for poets.

The first day was spent in physical awareness, tuning into our body - spine, lungs, diaphragm, exploring the musculature of our breathing and voice, and how our emotions can effect all of this. We put our first day learning into practice on Tuesday evening at the regular Ledbury poetry salon. 

In a flash of hot energy, anticipation and excitement I forgot everything I'd been learning that day, but totally trusted my body to remember and recall--after all it remembers to breathe every moment of every day.

The next day we continued to both explore our physicality and also the source of sound in our body, experimenting with allowing our body to source a sound, and also making different sounds through vibrating our belly, lips and throat. I really enjoyed the freedom to disconnect from words and explore sound; the marvel of how sound becomes communication, listening to it echo around the beautiful ancient barn we were working in.

On the final day we used a haiku to practice visualising and allowing each word to drop into our body. We did this lying down, allowing relaxation to assist with this and the natural breath. I used this practice to rehearse for our reading with a small audience from Hellens Manor. Being upright and in front of an audience again challenged me to use what I had learned to communicate my poem in my natural voice. It's been an amazing journey, which I'm only at the beginning of. Next stop making a video for YouTube – watch this space.

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