Silhouette: statue of “Russia’s greatest poet”, Alexander Pushkin, in St. Petersburg. The monument, by sculptor Mikhail Anikushin, stands in front of the State Russian Museum on Ploshchad Iskusstv (Arts Square). It was erected in 1957 to mark the 250th anniversary of the founding of St. Petersburg; although the city was founded in 1703, the death of Joseph Stalin in 1953 delayed celebrations by a full four years.
“John Edward Masefield OM (/ˈmeɪsˌfiːld, ˈmeɪz-/; 1 June 1878 – 12 May 1967) was an English poet and writer, and the Poet Laureate of the United Kingdom from 1930 until 1967. Among his best known works are the children’s novels The Midnight Folk and The Box of Delights, and the poems “The Everlasting Mercy” and “Sea-Fever”…
…Some time around Christmas 1895 he read the December edition of Truth, a New York periodical, which contained the poem “The Piper of Arll” by Duncan Campbell Scott. Ten years later Masefield wrote to Scott to tell him what reading that poem had meant to him:
I had never (till that time) cared very much for poetry, but your poem impressed me deeply, and set me on fire. Since then poetry has been the one deep influence in my life, and to my love of poetry I owe all my friends, and the position I now hold...
…In 1921 Masefield received an honorary doctorate of literature from the University of Oxford. In 1923 he organised Oxford Recitations, an annual contest whose purpose was “to discover good speakers of verse and to encourage ‘the beautiful speaking of poetry’.” Given the numbers of contest applicants, the event’s promotion of natural speech in poetical recitations, and the number of people learning how to listen to poetry, Oxford Recitations was generally deemed a success. Masefield was similarly a founding member, in 1924, of the Scottish Association for the Speaking of Verse. He later came to question whether the Oxford events should continue as a contest, considering that they might better be run as a festival. However, in 1929, after he broke with the competitive element, Oxford Recitations came to an end. The Scottish Association for the Speaking of Verse, on the other hand, continued to develop through the influence of associated figures such as Marion Angus and Hugh MacDiarmid and exists today as the Poetry Association of Scotland…”
In his 2008 book, The Last Minstrels: Yeats and the Revival of the Bardic Arts, Ronald Schuchard writes:
“…It was not until 1930 that the new Poet Laureate, John Masefield, who on Yeats’s inspiration became a lifelong proponent of spoken verse and founded the verse-speaking competitions known as the Oxford Recitations (1923-9), urged poets to recover through the radio the “Homeric Dream” of placing their voices in the public domain once again…”.
Mark Morrisson closes his 1996 paper, Performing the Pure Voice: Elocution, Verse Recitation, and Modernist Poetry in Prewar London:
“…The popularity of verse drama in the 1940s and 1950s centered around Eliot’s success at bringing it before West End, middle-class audiences; after World War I, prominent speech-education pioneers like Elsie Fogerty and Marjorie Gullan helped to institutionalize in the British school curriculum tenets of verse speaking that they validated by talking to poets like Monro. Though these practices involved reciters who were not themselves poets, they helped prepare a generation to enjoy public poetry readings. After World War II, and following successes like Dylan Thomas, the 1960s and 1970s witnessed a poetry-performance movement in Britain that built upon the possibilities opened up by the Poetry Bookshop. The widespread readings of the period, and such centers of the poetry performance movement as Morden Tower in Newcastle owed much to Harold Monro’s vision. As Basil Bunting, a link between the modernists and this new generation, and the mentor of the young Newcastle poets, told them, “Poetry lies dead on the page, until some voice brings it to life.” “.