Documentaries and features are about stories, but although they share much common ground, they often occupy very different worlds. In many radio cultures a documentary is a journalistic framework for seeking answers to questions, whereas a feature may often be an impressionistic hybrid that can contain drama, music and poetry, moving often towards not necessarily answers, but more questions. A documentary CAN be a feature, when it documents the maker's journey as they seek a way through their subject, asking questions of themselves as much as their chosen story, often through evocation rather than exposition. Poetry, Texas is just such a program, an exploration of a metaphor in which the maker and the listener join in a thirty-minute journey into the meaning of a word, and what it is to be human.
Poetry, the place, is little more than a few fields and a main street, with a water tower proclaiming its name. This is a program about change, and Malinovski is a presence throughout the journey. It is sometimes the case that a presenter can get in the way of the meaning in a feature; (but) he is a tactful and sensitive observer and companion throughout. Yet to be a feature program maker is to have a hard head as well as a soft heart; any speech program is made through journalism; when we ask a question of an interviewee with an editorial intention, we ARE making journalism, whether we choose the word or not. It may be sufficient to say here that in a radio feature such as this, a journalist asks the questions, but a poet hears and shapes the resonances in the sounds and the words. Malinovski's program is far more than an extended, rambling musing about the confluence within a word: it has a considered structure that informs its meaning, as does a good poem.
Because sound and experience are temporal, our relationship with the world around us is a continuing journey, in which the senses interpret life and make memory of it. We live in the present, but we are shaped by memory, and a sound in a program can enter memory and stay. Radio is suggestive, growing out of its connection with the temporal nature of life itself; we do not know what will happen in the next moment, and 'live' radio retains its capacity to surprise in the same way. The sounds the producer places to evoke a mood or a sense of place have the power to stir the imagination into its own personal pictures, which in turn have the potential to become memories for the listener, both of the program and associated sensory 'events'. By partaking in this experience, we can shape fantasies and fictions, often created from disparate and various audio symptoms of life around us in a partnership between imagination and memory. It goes far beyond the program itself. In this, works such as Poetry, Texas create powerful ripples in the imagination.
Reviewer Seán Street, Emeritus Professor of Radio at Bournemouth University, has written a number of key texts on radio and broadcasting, including The Poetry of Radio: The Colour of Sound, (Routledge, 2012/13) and The Memory of Sound: Preserving the Sonic Past (Routledge, forthcoming, 2014). Poetry, Texas received a special commendation from the judges of the Prix Europa 2012.
Recommended CitationStreet, Seán, Poetry, Texas: Review 1, RadioDoc Review, 1(1), 2014.