Poetry and songwriting are part of the same imaginative family, although they exude contrasting personalities. Where a song requires the music to support what the lyrics are endeavouring to communicate, poems own an internal strength to stand proud alone.
Musician and poet Heath Common demonstrates how it is possible to class yourself as both as we chatted about his most recent project, 2 Covid Verses. "To be honest, for me, the respective roles of poet and musician are not exclusive. As but two examples amongst very many, people like Bob Dylan and Leonard Cohen are perceived as being both poets and musicians. Nobody seems to have a problem with that shared perception."
Well travelled, Heath explored his way around Britain and even had a stint under the bright lights and buzz of cultural mecca New York City. He recollects, "My favourite place on earth is Heath Common which is where I’m from and obviously the place after which I’m named. It’s a mystical heathland site in West Yorkshire lying between Normanton and Wakefield which features amongst many other attractions a Travellers’ Site, an area for retired pit ponies and an outstanding olde worlde pub called The Kings Arms." When you have moved around as much as Heath, he believes it is essential to plant a flag to claim that you have come from somewhere.
The artistic soul has set to music two of his poems that feature in the Viral Verses anthology, donating proceeds to the NHS and helping to lift mood and offer hope for humanity. He was invited to get involved by Stephen Linstead from York University, who oversaw the compiling of the modern poetry collection. "I understand Stephen approached me because he’d previously come across my poem Powis Square at 4 am when he heard me reading it at a Poetry Festival, and enjoyed listening to it."
After pondering, Stephen believed it would be a ‘fit’ for the treasury of poetry that he was gathering. Heath informs me, "The idea behind the anthology was to raise much-needed funds for the NHS in these troubled times by featuring many internationally celebrated poets alongside relatively new voices."
It is not uncommon for Heath to settle spoken words to tunes. "After all, when one thinks of artists like John Cooper Clarke, Tom Waits, Sleaford Mods, The Fall etc., etc., it’s being done all over the place. It’s not anything new. I believe the benefits are that - if it’s done properly - one can clearly hear the lyrics or the poem instead of fighting to decipher what is being said or sung."
Heath's thoughts and voice are as clear as glass in Powis Square At 4 am, with his accent willingly conveyed. Second poem, bluesy When The Dog Bites The Monkey was selected by Common when Dominic Cummings had undertaken his infamous trip to Bernard Castle. He continues, "It just seemed to be a very appropriate poem for that time of deception and deceit by someone in power." Heath called on Sheffield lad The Thin Man and himself to compose the music for the two tracks.
To conclude, the travelling broadcaster lets us know how to get involved ourselves. "You can download both digital tracks from iTunes, Apple Music, Spotify etc and both tracks are also available on an album of mine entitled The Dream Of Miss Dee which is available from Hi 4 Head records (hi4headrecords.com)."
Article by Beverley Knight