A NEW trend is developing for authentic performances by poets at the Ledbury Poetry Festival, even when the poet in question is dead.

Last Sunday, the English actress Francesca Hunt read the poems and prose of Adrienne Rich in Rich's own American voice, having listened to recordings of the poet, who died in 2012.

It was excellent preparation and all the more commendable because Hunt was standing in for Juliet Stevenson, who could not attend after all, because of other arrangements.

Hunt, the daughter of the former Arts Minister, Mark Fisher, is perhaps best known for being Mrs Salt in the hit movie, "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory".

She appeared on stage with her father, and both shared their love of Rich's poems, while Fisher shared his thoughts on poetry in performance.

He came to the bold conclusion that some poets do not read their own work at all well, and he singled out TS Eliot as having been particularly deficient in this respect. He also claimed that the Poet Laureate, Carol Ann Duffy, is also not a great reader of her own work, and that Juliet Stevenson would do a better job.

Local people, however, will never know how well Stevenson would have recited the works of Rich, and it is unlikely that Hunt's performance would have been bettered.

She had Rich's American drawl down to perfection: a drawl which seemed to sharpen Rich's strong political comments such as: "Art means nothing if it simply decorates the dinner table of power."

Rich is well known in the USA but is not so well known in the UK, where perhaps she is regarded as a strident political poet with a focus on American struggles.

Much of her work, however, is highly personal, such as the poems she wrote to and about her girlfriend.

Rich could hone a line to great potency, such as, "the live, insatiate dance of your nipples in my mouth".

As for the authentic voice: after a festival where Hugh Dennis chose to play a recording of Maya Angelou reading her poem, "I Rise", it seems as if the taste for a poet's own voice is still there, whether or not the poet in question is still alive, and whether or not the poet reads well.

Hunt's solution is one way forward, and certainly she's a fine enough actress to suggest nuances which might not be so obvious from a tape recording; a voice from the past.