Rhyme and Rhythm

Words that work on paper don’t always flow when read aloud. Conversely, in poetry for example, words that make little sense on the page become magical when spoken, because the meaning is in the rhythm and the phrasing.

When creating spoken content for others, note their accent and pronunciation, their tone, their speaking style, their linguistic idiosyncrasies. All feed into the way their words will be delivered, and how they will be heard and understood.

When I first read Derek Walcott’s beautiful poem  The Schooner Flight, I didn’t get it at all.   Later I heard him read it aloud in rolling Caribbean tones and the effect was transformational. The minute the voice is added to the mix, everything changes.

Here is Linton Kwesi Johnson reading Walcott’s short poem Love After Love on news of Walcott’s death earlier this year, and here is Tom Hiddleston reading the same poem. Each makes it his own. This is why you can see Hamlet a hundred times – each iteration shows something different about the premise, the people, the place.

When writing to be heard, write in the simplest language so  it’s easy to deliver and will hook the audience from the start. Speak with them, not to them, and build in pauses and asides and humour to allow what you’re saying to be absorbed.

I leave you with an example of beautiful writing for speech: President Obama after the Florida nightclub shooting in 2016. Note the simple language, the rhythm, the phrasing, the pauses, the repetitions. In the midst of tragedy,  a form of poetry.