Multivoice Poetry Challenge (Part 2)

Here are two films (with two different poetry groups) using the same poem as given in my last post. Please have a try at rehearsing and performing the poem yourself. Add a film of the event to you tube.



Many Voices (a multi-voice poem)

Author Ashby McGowan


Performed by

Kelsey Amelotte,

Ainslie De Sousa,

Jamie Lester,

Zunaira Munir, and

Manon van Mil



Queen’s University, Faculty of Education

Kingston, ON, Canada,






Many Voices Poem


Produced by Rachel Jury (Artistic Director conFAB)

Written by: Ashby McGowan

Acting Director: Iwona Glowinska

Film Director: Pete Hastie


Ashby McGowan

Berta Cussó

Jessica Phillippi

Miriam Sarah Doren

Robert Przekwas





rhythm of  the tides002As an example we can use my multi-voice poem: Rhythm of the Tides. But this technique would work for many similar poems.

One of the accompanying pictures has 16 audience participation cards which allow audience members to speak out of sequence with each other. This will allow audiences to participate in the poem. Any size of audience. The 16 cards are printed, duplicated onto coloured card, and cut out. Then placed on every audience member’s seat before the show. Equal number of cards given out for each of the three verses. Cards are numbered 1, 2, and 3. Each depicts the phrases to be spoken by that audience member when the verse that matches the number on their card is being read. eg. Those with card number 2 read out their phrase when the second verse is being performed.

The poem is performed by the 4 actors with the first verse loud but, verse by verse getting quieter. The poem can be repeated twice. Someone not performing should indicate which verse is being read to the audience by holding up the appropriate number of fingers. They can discuss, with the audience, what the audience have to do before the poem starts. And they can encourage the audience to have a rehearsal by themselves before the poem starts properly (i.e. with the performers taking part).

The poem itself was a screen shot posted via a PNG file that had been cropped on Publisher 2010.

The file with the 16 cards on it was too complicated to save and post easily. So, I scanned the complicated printed page (using a high quality scanner) and saved as a high quality PNG file. This worked well and is another useful tool to use to post (to your website) your multi-voice poems or other complicated formats.

This poem has been performed by Chromatic Voices 1. It met with a great reception from the audience. The poem has been printed once in a Book by A.L.L. Times and thanks to them for permission to post the poem here.

If the poem is too difficult to remember then the performers can read their lines off of blank books that are labelled – for the audience to see – with the titles “Wind” etc. With their lines inside. The performers have to move forward line by line at the same time and not leave anyone behind. This is the most difficult part of the poem for the performers on stage. For performers, the more rehearsals you have the better. And this is true for any multi-voice poem!

[This article below is already on one of my websites and duplicates some of the above but is useful to look at.] Large Number Multi-Voice. Since I started writing multi-voice I have been writing different versions that are suitable for large numbers of people: these people being either the audience or the performing Poets taking up the tasks/voices between themselves. I recently devised a version which I think allows maximum variation around the basic idea. Firstly, I wrote a Poem about something that flows or changes (in my case it was the sea, but it could be e.g. time or emotion). There are definite points in the poem were things change by a large amount/in steps. This basic poem has words taken from its text and written up on cards for the audience to read, or for other members of the Performance Group to perform between them. Instructions on how the Poem is meant to be read are enclosed on the card for each member of the audience. The words should have meaning and should fit the various “steps”. In my Poem, the performers read about the sea and each verse has the sea becoming softer and softer. So, the audience have to read words that are very loudly spoken (in verse 1), then loud (verse 2), then normal volume (verse 3). The words themselves change from being harsh words like crash to softer words like lap. Each verse that is read has a number which relates to a number on the card the audience member has: so members of the audience with card 1 read out their bit according to their instructions while the performers are reading verse 1 at the microphone. Similar occurs for verses two and three. Hopefully this relatively simple set up should keep the audience involved and should let them feel part of the poem-in meaning and in sound. This set up might sound a bit complicated but should allow audiences of thirty and upwards to take part in a poem. I was ready to try out this audience participation version of my poem at a poetry night in Glasgow but the audience was only twenty that night and I thought that was too low a number to get the audience participation a proper try out. If your acting/poetry group wants to try this out then please get in touch with me.

Rhythm of the Tides


Metta Bhavana

METTA BHAVANA (A Buddhist Meditation)

May all beings be happy  (A MULTI-VOICE version)

First speaker                                    			Second speaker
May all beings be happy						May all beings be happy
May I be happy							May I be happy
May you be happy						May you be happy
May all beings be happy						May all beings be happy

Third speaker
Cattle, sheep and pigs, lined up to be slaughtered, waiting for death.
Full of the fear of dying. 
May they be at peace. May they not have to die so that humans can eat them.
May all creatures be free from misery and pain.
May all people everywhere have respect for other people and for other creatures,
And may they not harm them in any way.

First speaker								Second speaker
For the bird,  pushing through the cold air, flying. 		For the fish, pushing at the tight net, dying.
For the lamb, on the frozen moor, lying				For the rat, in the filthy cage, crying
May all beings be happy.					May all beings be happy.

Third speaker
May all beings throughout the world live in happiness. 
May they experience diverse joys and know the wonders of life.
May they be fulfilled. May they be healthy. May they be strong.  May they be safe and secure.

First speaker							         Second speaker
In the snow filled wilderness, in icy waters			In icy waters, in the snow filled wilderness
In jungles and forests, in deserts and marshes			In deserts and marshes, in jungles and forests
May all beings be happy						May all beings be happy

Third speaker
All beings struggling for life, trying to protect their young and those they love. Trying to find happiness in a world filled with danger and hate.

					Spoken by all speakers.
					May all beings be happy 
					May all beings be happy 
					May all beings be happy

    					Sabbe satta bhavantu sukhitatta
    					Sabbe satta bhavantu sukhitatta
          				Sabbe satta bhavantu sukhitatta


The performance poem AMNESTY, is meant to be read aloud by six people. Each verse commences when the person reading that verse knows the previous speaker is about to speak the trigger phrase, which is in bold type at the end of the previous verse (both people read the trigger phrase at the same time). The readings should pass through the group and then back to the beginning (I will) to then pass through another cycle (two cycles should be enough to avoid reader and audience fatigue). Titles of each verse can be carried by the speaker on A3 card. Speakers on the left (of the page) dressed in white. “Figure in Black” and “Prisoner” do read at the same time: it is meant to be a bit chaotic.



Amnesty Member

I will do what I can do

For you bear more than you can take.

I will hold a candle for you,

Like a star, high in the sky

Prisoner                                                           Figure in Black

High in the sky, yet caught in the bars,                                       High in the sky, and under the sea,

A waxing moon bleeds cold light through the damp air                Death comes to all, no one is free

Splashes of white fall on my hands, light up my chair,                  And guns have a price, you can buy them from me

And the tight-clenched page, with the words that you wrote

Condemned to Die

The words that you wrote, are prayers filled with hope

But my future, “they” tell me, is tied up with rope.

A chance to forgive, a chance to cry

And no one to judge, and no one to die

Victim of Domestic Abuse

And no one to die, a chance to be free

Not a wife, not a lover, a chance to be me

To walk down the street and no-one stares

In this world of dreams there is someone who cares

Child Soldier

Someone who cares, reaches out through the night

When I shake and I turn on the light.

I will let the bad dreams end,

For I have, at last, found a friend.




I know a lot of people go through this scenario at the end of a relationship.
Is there a way back through Counselling or something else? I hope so. 
[Try: ] But I think that the fact that this stage has been reached,
must be addressed by both people in the relationship. And never accept violence!

Speaker 1                                             Speaker 2

                                                      You arrived as a part of an alien landing
                                                      Bringing gifts of hate and misunderstanding
                                                      Your words are empty, your promises broken
                                                      Your mouth full of lies, waiting to be spoken

Once I loved you, but now we are strangers
All we have is distrust and unspoken dangers
Your kindness distorted, your beauties are shaded
We sleep apart, even lust has faded

                                                      Each evening we sit, as time drains away
                                                      Living in silence, each night and each day
                                                      We can’t even party, at the end of the week
                                                      Two people, once lovers, who can’t even speak

“Did you get the food OK tonight?”			
                                                     “Do you think I am stupid? Of course I did”
“Don’t raise your voice at me!”					
                                                     “You’re the one that is shouting”

We don’t……………                                         …………don’t want to fight
But we play this game………                              ……………each night
Nothing that we can do
Time to say, 
                                                      “It’s through?”


 My Mate Paul: a multi-voice poem (where the audience imagine the words not given)

Hi. How are you?


Only had the two


Glad you could make it


Dancing! We’re gonna boogie n’ shake it

You what?


Yeh, the drink’s dear

What? Too loud in here

My mate Paul will be here soon

Then you just watch the “tarts” all swoon


No. He’s got a “trouble and strife”,

Couldn’t call her, “a wife”


No. She’s lucky that Paul decided to stay

She’s a bitch, takes most of his pay


She used to be hot, a bit of a looker

Now all she does is stand over her cooker

Whenever they fight, it’s always the same

She’s always the one that’s to blame

Paul can get any woman he chooses

But he looks after a woman that’s all covered in bruises


He does! He’s a guy that really cares!

He never went out for a week after she fell down stairs


He would never hit her. Just the odd slap round the ear

She never complains. Never a tear


No flowers. He would never buy her a rose,

Only present he ever gave her was, a bit of a dose.

To his kids, he is great

To his pals, he’s our mate

Here he comes, walking tall,

The man of the moment, my mate Paul!


You what? That’ll leave a scar

This time you’ve gone too far.

Make her tell the Police she started a fight

But you sure have put a dampener on the night