Friday Feature, Poetry

The Sound Recordist – Seán Street

Today we celebrate the anticipated new release from writer, producer and presenter, Seán Street.

The Sound Recordist (Maytree Press) has developed from the author’s lifetime working with sound, reflecting on its crucial place within and around us. The sequence comes directly from listening, using the metaphor of the microphone and recording machine as a non-judgemental witness to place and history, through pain and cruelty to the consolations and inspirations of art and music and the natural world, finally moving towards a quest for silence and stillness. 

Isolation, alienation, exile and loneliness are themes; but above all the human voice – its dialects, timbres and its sense of communicating a self is a recurring motif.

Early Show
Sheep in Fog above Llanfair

Transmission of signals on the edge of things
audible as the eye learns how to listen.
They emerge gradually. Notes on dim staves –
pauses in silence – these clouds with their nut eyes.

Meanwhile telephony marches up the hill
on speechless lines publishing its blank paper’s
white noise until blind voices wake. Fog hears it
but it doesn’t listen, soundproofing the world –

turning things anechoic – until sun burns
through, pouring between mountains, soaking valleys
back to language. And there it is, the remade
grammar of fields, this random punctuation,

the opening sky cueing ‘play-record’ again.
Light-patterns shaping pure music into dance.

Listening with a Spider

Steady summer rain on a low flat roof,
two of us listening, tense with waiting,
each in our corner, and this warm straight sound.

Outside, foliage drinking. The beech trees,
the rain given voice by what it touches,
what it falls onto when the gutters burst.

There are years held in it, and at once now
as always, but time is only this thin,
through a low flat roof, and we are sharers,

a life is as long as one raindrop’s beat
and then the next. We are inside a drum,
nothing for it but to listen, locked down.

What will we take from this, the two of us?
The comfort of the moment in this cave, 
the kindness of stasis, safety of it.

Seán Street has published nine previous poetry collections, the most recent being Camera Obscura (Rockingham Press, 2016). His anthology, Radio Waves – Poems About the Wireless was published by Enitharmon in 2004. Prose includes The Wreck of the Deutschland, a study of the historical background to the great poem by Gerard Manley Hopkins (Souvenir Press, 1992) and The Dymock Poets (Seren 1994/14.) Works relating to sound aesthetics include The Poetry of Radio: The Colour of Sound (Routledge, 2013/14) and The Memory of Sound: Preserving the Sonic Past (Routledge, 2015/16). Between 2017 and 2019, he wrote a further trilogy of books for Palgrave on the theme of sound and its relationship to poetics and philosophy, and his most recent publication on the subject is The Sound of a Room: Memory and the Auditory Presence of Place (Routledge, 2020). His plays have been performed by Salisbury Playhouse and the Royal Theatre, Northampton, both in-house and on tour, and his film-poem, Elias, commissioned by Salisbury Cathedral for their Magna Carta anniversary celebrations, was produced in 2015 by Red Balloon Productions. He has worked in radio for much of his life, writing and presenting features for BBC Radio, and for a number of other global broadcasters.

He is Emeritus Professor at Bournemouth University.

Read a review here: The Sound Recordist by Seán Street (Maytree Press) | Tears in the Fence

The Sound Recordist – available on-line: The Sound Recordist by Seán Street | Maytree Press (