NEXT weekend sees the inaugural Festival of the Spoken Word at Messums art gallery in Tisbury. According to the programme, it is ‘time to consider the creative power of a well-sculpted phrase’ – a thought that long-suffering readers of this column may well agree with.

There’s a great line of different spoken-word speakers, from Rupert Everett to Edward Fox, Barney Norris to Ben Haggerty, touching on everything from ancient Greek debating to modern-day poetry slamming.

One event that particularly caught my eye was that of a Poetry Perambulation involving the self-styled Running Poet, Verity Ockenden.

As the name suggests, Verity is a runner who writes poetry.

She has represented Great Britain at a number of different distances, both on the track and in cross country championships. As with any runner at that level, Verity does a lot of training – an hour or two a day – and it is while she is out running, that she uses the time to compose her poetry.

Verity first got into writing when she went to the US on an athletics scholarship. She studied creative writing there and began by writing semi-autobiographically about her running.

When that didn’t quite work, she tried turning it into poetry, and suddenly the writing clicked. She’s been writing poetry ever since.

For Verity, there is something specific about the running that helps her to write: there’s something about the rhythm of the running that is in turn echoed in the writing.

I asked her how she remembers what she has written, and Verity explained that she keeps on saying the lines out loud and repeating them, almost like a running mantra. Then, when the run is finished, she writes down as much as she can remember.

Verity’s technique of running and writing is less unusual that you might think.

The link between creativity and exercise is one that has become well-known over the years. ‘Methinks that the moment my legs begin to move,’ Henry David Thoreau once wrote, ‘my thoughts begin to flow.’

Agatha Christie was another writer who walked and wrote, working through and speaking out the chapters that she would later sit down to write.

William Wordsworth, it is estimated, walked a remarkable 180,000 miles during his lifetime, giving him plenty of time for composition.

There’s scientific reasoning behind all of this. Exercise makes the heart work faster, pumping blood and oxygen around the body. It’s the extra oxygen getting in the brain, scientists believe, that helps with creativity. So the next time you’re stuck for an idea, don’t sit at your desk staring at a screen – get your trainers on instead!

Messums’ Festival of the Spoken Word is on July 14 and 15: for more details visit