Friday, July 15, 2011

I will have Poetry in my life and Adventure!

By Amy Baranski

Vacation Reads
This morning I'm getting ready to leave on vacation to paradise. I've been pulling together some reading material for the trip which mostly consists of a few scripts from Shakespeare, the new book of poetry compiled by Hollander, the Declaration of Independence, and the long article on memorization that Melissa summarized yesterday.

I've been working, as you know, on memorizing the Declaration of Independence, but I've added a few other texts in the mix. I'm working on Sonnet #18 by Shakespeare, The Second Coming by W.B. Yeats, The World by George Herbert, and The Widow's Lament in Springtime by William Carlos Williams.

The issue of reciting aloud has come up frequently in recent days. John Hollander has this to offer on the topic:
"In reciting a poem aloud, you are not like an actor, coming to understand, and then to feel yourself in a dramatic part, a fictional person. It's rather that you come to understand, and then to be, the voice of the poem itself."
Instruments for reading in the sun.
It's an interesting point Hollander makes in his Introduction to Committed to Memory. In fact, mostly the only poetry I've heard falls into two camps: the stage-wise ravenous performances of slam-style poets and the page-wise lilting performances among the literary houses. Or maybe it's one camp really. It's all a little pitchy to me.

And then there's the dreaded embarrassment one feels when a writer's voice, so apparent on page, so completely disappoints on stage.

Hollander recommends recording audio while reciting a poem for playback. So for the past few days I've been sitting at my computer fussing with the sound recorder. It's hard not to recite a poem with an affectation. And it's also really hard to not infuse your own meaning into a poem, especially when it is obscure. Here are a two examples of me reading The Second Coming by W.B. Yeats.

Listen and tell me what you hear...

A more heightened reading

A self-conscious reading

Notice how the cadence is much different in the beginning?

It makes my skin crawl to hear my voice playback no less post it on the Internet. But I'd really like to be able to do this properly in the end so it's good practice. I struggle with how to read The Second Coming and I take solace in the fact I'm not alone.

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