Since the start of last semester, Carmen and Sophie set up Word of Mouth on Leeds Student Radio to allow poets from all backgrounds to discuss weekly themes on air each week. Challenging the norms of written and spoken word poetry, Word of Mouth allows poetic verse to be projected on a niche media such as radio, presenting new opportunities for listeners to engage with classic and contemporary literature. I was able to ask Carmen and Sophie a few questions about how they set up the project, the challenges they faced and what future plans they have in store!
What was the initial reason for starting this project, and how has it grown since the beginning?
The main reason for launching Word of Mouth was definitely our own passion for poetry and creative writing. We wanted to explore our interests further and develop a space for sharing our poetry with other likeminded writers across Leeds! We also believed there should be a greater choice of platforms for Leeds based poets and performers within the media societies already established, and Leeds Student Radio is perhaps the best way to get new voices heard.
How have you found presenting poetry on a different media like radio compared to stage performance? How has it affected the piece knowing you cannot see an audience’s reaction?
In many ways radio is often more daunting that doing a live spoken word performance, you can’t really gage with the audience reaction although we always tend to applaud and clap whenever a poem is read on air. Performing on the radio however makes you consider far more deeply your style of delivery, what tone of voice to use, how best to construct a pace within your poem. A lot of thought goes into not only what poems we choose to read depending on the theme each week, but we also like to run through different styles of delivery before we read on air.
What challenges have you faced since starting the project and how have you overcome them?
One of the main challenges we faced this semester was getting performers from outside of Leeds Student Radio to come and perform, we really hope that a closer relationship with the Spoken Word Society will help us to provide a much broader platform for anyone interested in sharing their poetry! Researching into different cultural themes has been a challenge, but one we have embraced and enjoyed, taking into account Interfaith Week across Leeds University campus being one of the highlights of the programme this semester.
Have you taken inspiration from any poetry podcasts/other radio stations that feature spoken word artists? If so, what have you incorporated/adapted to Word of Mouth to make it original?
Although there are a huge number of poetry podcasts (my favourite being The New Yorker,) we didn’t set a precedent for our show. Each episode is slightly different with a new theme each week, and a poetry challenge during the last three minutes of each show in which we try to compose a poem on the spot with help from guests. We didn’t want our show to be a documentary about poetry, or go too in depth into analysis and end up sounding like an A level English Literature exam; our main aim is to first and foremost share our love of poetry and give a platform for upcoming performers.
Are there any future plans for Word of Mouth, and what can people do to support you?
Hopefully Word of Mouth will continue next semester, and I think we’ll up the ante in terms of social media presence to get more poets involved. If you’re interested in performing please get in touch with either me (Carmen Walker-Vazquez), or Sophie Gottlieb, via our Facebook page LSR Word of Mouth; we’d be happy to have you!