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"The perfect word in the perfect place in the perfect time"

22 July 2019

'Poetry is described as heightened speech, as "the perfect word in the perfect place in the perfect time"; the poet Linton Kwesi Johnson says it is "the distillation of human experience through language". It is all these things, but it is also prose that wants to sign, text that operates in the realm of music, where the sound of what is penned entertains as much as its contents.

I write for myself first and foremost, but as I write, I imagine I am speaking to a friend who has just walked in, to whom I'm recounting a story already known, but for whom I am trying to make it worthwhile to listen again. Sometimes the "friend" here is one I have never met, but who I am confident will be cool with me. I write with that assumed familiarity. Sometimes I write song lyrics, sometimes lyric poems, always they are lyrical; and sometimes I write plays.'

Inua Ellams, poet, playwright, author of six poetry pamphlets, including Candy Coated All Stars and Thirteen Fairy Negro Fairy Tales, and seventeen plays, in the Sunday Times Culture