Voice Alpha

on reading poetry aloud for an audience

a poet needs her mouth!

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The left side of Patricia Smith’s face temporarily frozen by the effect of a virus and how it affects her:

I never realized how tightly the way I sound is connected to what I want to say. The minute I’ve written something, I begin looking for a way to say that something out loud. And yes, I’ve read mythic tales of poets who hate the sound of their own voices, who are content to have their words inked, bound, and therefore relatively accessible. Me? I believe that words are meant to touch the page for a tiny little instant. They don’t truly live until they’ve ridden the air.

But now my stanzas come halting and lazed. I have to slow my speech and enunciate. I’m terrified that I will speak and not be understood, that the full meaning beneath those words will be lost within the newly-slurred mechanics of my deadened half.

How can I say this? I am a poet. I need my whole mouth back. My pen can’t do it alone.

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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.

One thought on “a poet needs her mouth!

  1. I read Smith’s piece last night. Any of us who write poetry can identify with her declaration of need. We so seldom think about what is so essential a part of us until we’ve lost it. I can’t help but think, however, of Oliver Sacks’ “The Mind’s Eye”, in which he relates how loss of sight doesn’t mean we cannot “see”.

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