Voice Alpha

on reading poetry aloud for an audience

Donna reads ‘Wonder Woman’


This week the Voice Alpha gang will be reading Wonder Woman, the poem donated by Collin Kelley to Voice Alpha‘s list of poems for which the authors have given readers permission in advance to record for Dear Voice Alpha, the VA reading advice program. We’ll end the week with a Voice Alpha critique of a reading of the poem by the poet himself. Feel free to add your observations on the readings to the comments. If you would like to send in a reading of Wonder Woman for Voice Alpha critique, email the MP3 to nic_sebastian at hotmail dot com.

All Voice Alpha readings of ‘Wonder Woman.’

Donna’s reading

Nic’s comments

I thought this was a great reading, Donna! Your volume, clarity of diction and breath control were good throughout (one minor ‘breath control’ moment noted below) and your pacing was great. I loved the way you brought out the humor in the piece, especially in your emphases on three key words – alarms in L2, the truth in L13 and invisible in L21. I actually laughed when I heard how you did ‘alarms’ and ‘the truth’ especially. In the same vein, you also did a great job in L4-5 in presenting more than the dolls, mind you, I wanted to be / Wonder woman. Beyond that, I felt you really inhabited the poem and were reading it from the inside. You used a kind of mock declamatory voice which I thought suited the overall self-mocking feel of the piece very well. You adapted out of it appropriately in L14 to capture a wistfulness in there was no magic in those rough, twisted fibers.

Two very very small nits: In L8, I thought you had a ‘breath control’ moment, where you paused noticeably to take a breath at what seemed to me a random moment (between ‘around’ and ‘my’). In L15 I was not sure about your inflection on the word ‘ounce’ – it does need emphasis, but I thought your inflection turned it into something of a question.

Carolee’s comments

Donna, the energy in your voice in this is a great gift because it shows there’s more than one effective way to read the same text. while Nic’s and Kristen’s chose the reminiscing route (which i liked), yours goes in the direction of telling a hero’s tale. it makes me think of how one would read comic strips out loud, and that’s perfect!

I think some of the words you emphasize are right on and some seem off (in the YARD, for example). in the cases where they are off, it takes the reading toward that stereotypical poem-reading voice (lilting and dropping, like I am READing a POEM right NOW) we hear when someone forgets the emotion and story of a piece and only conveys the lines and the rhythm.

It happens to all of us, of course, and I think it’s a matter of practicing this so that you could sustain that comic book energy all the way through.

Kristin’s comments

I like the way you said words like “cardboard,” “ounce,” and “manly.” The word “plane” at the end almost gets lost, which may have more to do with recording technology than your voice.

I thought you captured a bit of the voice of the speaker as youngster, even though the speaker is clearly years beyond these events. I didn’t think about it at the time I read it, but I think one of the potential traps of the poem is a possible sinking into sadness or melancholy over the way we saw the world as children or over what’s been lost. Your voice nicely sidesteps that possible bog.

Overall, very well done!

Dave’s comments

This says more about me and my preferences than anything else, of course, but I do prefer your energetic style for this poem over what Carolee calls the reminiscing route. To me, this sounds like the voice one would use to read a story aloud to children — an excellent choice, given the subject matter. The several lines beginning “I don’t remember who” might’ve been a bit too declamatory, using an even rather than falling tone at the ends of clauses. I like this effect in moderation, but when used too many times in a row, it becomes tiresome. (Nic calls this “mock declamatory,” so maybe I just missed the point.)

One thing you and at least one other reader do wrong, I think, is to over-emphasize “manly” at the expense of “cape” in such a way as to imply that Wonder Woman too had a cape, just not a manly one. Also, it seems odd to say “really THINKING” rather than “REALLY thinking.” (Presumably, the father played along with the Wonder Woman schtick and at least pretended to tell the truth when lassoed.) And “invisible” is a bit too strong at the end.

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Author: Nic Sebastian

Nic is the author of Forever Will End On Thursday and Dark And Like A Web. She founded the now-archived Whale Sound site and is co-founder of The Poetry Storehouse. Nic blogs at Very Like A Whale and Voice Alpha.

3 thoughts on “Donna reads ‘Wonder Woman’

  1. Sorry I didn’t get here to comment yesterday – thanks to everyone for the feedback. It is so interesting to hear all of the different interpretations, and I will take all of your feedback into account.

  2. The clarity of your voice is wonderful! Like Carolee, I was interested in the words you chose to “punch,” but I enjoyed hearing your interpretation!

  3. Thank goodness, Colin. I was so afraid to “ruin” someone else’s poem – if I read my own work, it’s my own fault if it doesn’t come across well. Reading someone else’s work is another story entirely.

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