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23 May 2008

Friday 23 May 2008 21:45-22:30 (Radio 3)

Ian McMillan presents the weekly cabaret of language, talking to hip-hop musician and performance poet Saul Williams, who also performs in studio. Williams is an internationally acclaimed spoken word artist, who has released several solo albums and also worked with the likes of The Fugees and Erykah Badu.


45 minutes


On The Verb this week Ian McMillan lays claim to no less than four world premieres, which might seem excessive, even for our infamous weekly cabaret of language and literature.

Vikram Seth, renowned for books like A Suitable Boy and An Equal Music, began by writing poetry - but the success of his verse novel, The Golden Gate, turned him to fiction.

On The Verb Seth reads from 'The Traveller' - the third part of his annual collaboration with the musician Alec Roth. The Traveller is composed of Seth's translations of poems from a spectrum of writings - from Sanskrit creation hymns - to 19th century Urdu - to the writer's own verses. Naturally, Ian McMillan wants to know if there is a Sanskrit dictionary. The answer is yes, but to hear how language really does travel across time, and how a relatively recent children's rhyme compares with the words of the Buddha, and with new poetry from Vikram Seth, tune in at nine forty five tomorrow evening / this evening.

Ian McMillan's second 'premiere' involves the novelist and John Milton enthusiast Sue Townsend, creator of Adrian Mole, the poet and avant-gardeist Ira Lightman, and a blindfold.

In his quest to understand and better appreciate how the blind Milton wrote, or rather dictated Paradise Lost, Ira Lightman has been attempting to match that poet's rhyme, rhythm and structure - and create a successful new poem - while wearing the blindfold. As Lightman explains, this is not a gimmick. Ian McMillan invites Sue Townsend, who says she has loved John Milton since school, and become ever closer to him after she lost her own sight, to evaluate Lightman's effort.

Also on the show, the first chance to hear poet Paul Batchelor on national radio. Born in Northumberland in 1977, Batchelor's work has already won prizes - including the Eric Gregory Award. What caught Ian McMillan's eye, however, was the poet's new collection, "The Sinking Road," and his confessed debt to the great North East tradition of Barry McSweeny and Basil Bunting. Ian foresees a great future for Paul Batchelor, as he does for the musician Gemma Hayes, songwriter, singer, and Mercury Music prize nominee. Gemma's song-writing master-class completes The Verb world premiere edition - or does it? You be the judge.

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