The craft of writing - being accessible

I never imagined when I 'became' a writer that I would do some of the things that have become a regular part of my writing life. This week, for example, after folding 70 paper stories/sculptures for the Green Thought exhibition, I shall be travelling up to London to record a story for Tales of the Decongested. In addition to putting out an anthology, Paul and Rebekah are asking writers to read their own stories aloud and downloadable versions of the anthology texts will (eventually) be available from a website.

I'm all in favour of this. I think literature should be as accessible as possible to as many as possible. I remember when I lived in Dagenham and worked in Putney, watching people reading the Poems on the Underground which were displayed in the place of advertisments in the carriages. Time and again an individual would start to smile as they worked through the text, nodding gently, feeling that they had shared a moment with the writer. Often people would nudge companions and get them to read the poem too. Many, many times I watched the mouths of young men, both black and white, as they subvocalised the lines, struggling to read something so unfamiliar but not giving up until they reached the last full stop. Young women read faster and didn't subvocalise. I know now, since becoming a writer in residence at secondary schools, tbat many boys never master fluent reading, but even then I knew their sense of accomplishment when they mastered the poem was huge.

Those few lines of verse were a window into 'my' world; the world of reading a book a day, of critical theories of literature, of classical texts densely footnoted ... but they were also a moment in which we all shared the same poem, the same reading experience, and however individual our responses, most of us wore the same smile when we reached the end of that literary interlude.