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Last on

Sat 6 Apr 2013 23:30 BBC Radio 4

30 minutes
First broadcast:
Sunday 31 March 2013

Poet and DJ Mr Gee talks to songwriters about poetry and how it influences their work.

The performance poet, DJ and broadcaster, Mr Gee - familiar from his work on Saturday Live and Russell Brand's Radio 2 show - is fascinated by poetry and songwriting, the similarities and the differences between these crafts. He seeks out songwriters who love poetry and hears from them about the importance of poetry in their lives and the way it influences their songwriting.

Noel Gallagher recalls going to see poets such as John Cooper Clarke and Lemn Sissay perform, and explains how his songs are metaphorical and imagistic, using the techniques of poetry.

Cerys Matthews, who came to fame two decades ago as the singer in Catatonia, is a Welsh speaker, in which language poetry is written in strict, elaborate forms. The poets she cites as influential include Walt Whitman and Allen Ginsberg, whose work, formally, ranges as wide as the plains of America, with enormously long lines and patterns like mountain ranges. These poets inspire her directly, she tells Mr Gee, then she picks up her guitar and sings.

For Richard Thompson the influence of the poets he loves - Eliot, Yeats and John Clare - is more tangential. It colours the mood and tone of his great songs of modern England. Sometimes the rhythms of poems find their way into his songs. He is struck by the power of traditional songs, how they evoke characters, and unfold stories in images.

Akala plays a game, firing quotes from Shakespeare and rap songs and challenging Mr Gee to identify which is which. This leads to serious discussion about the common ground between Shakespeare and Hip-hop, and the poetic richness of contemporary popular culture.

And Rapper Jordan Stephens, from Rizzle Kicks, reveals how poetry was at the centre of his upbringing and how one poem is so important to him that he's had it tattooed on his forearm.

Mr Gee hears, too, from someone working the other way around. Ian McMillan, enthusiast of what his wife calls 'squeaky gate music' by, for instance, Captain Beefheart, reveals how songs have influenced the poetry he writes, some of which is then set to music.

Producer: Julian May

For Mr gee information go to: http://soundcloud.com/mr-gee-poet.


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