Ian McMillan is a poet, broadcaster, and presenter of BBC Radio Three’s The Verb, a programme that celebrates the spoken (and sung, and chanted, and pounded, and whispered) word. Ian’s appreciation of language; its flows and rhythms and its very many forms are what drew me to listening weekly to his programme. His way of showing language as living thing that can dance on the page if you let it out of the reverential box it sometimes gets trapped in led to me ask if he would consider writing this piece for us.
Ian is a Yorkshireman; he writes the way he speaks, and he speaks with a voice like a pint of strong dark beer in a big dimpled glass. So ease yourself into the soft-padded fireside seat of your favourite minds-eye pub, take that big glass in your hand – both hands if necessary – and give your minds-ears a treat.
“Sometimes I can read a poem on the page and I can’t quite make out what the author’s intention was: there’s something there, I can tell, but it’s hidden in the language-mist. When I hear the poem read aloud, (or accompanied by music, or acted out by a variety of voices: anything is possible once you start down this road) then the clouds are blown away and the poem does what it meant to say on the tin, to re-fashion an advertising slogan.”