Check out this interesting exchange. Excerpt:
…one difficulty that will exist when we are reading poetry from poets around the world is the ‘musicality’ of the poetry.
Poetry is essentially to be read aloud but I am a Northern Englishman, Yorkshire to be exact, and my vowel sounds are distinctively different from any American or Australian voice. For me to read aloud the poetry of some one from Alabama, say, is like playing the violin concerto on a trombone, it doesn’t sound the way the composer wrote it or conceived it.
As a general rule, I wouldn’t make too much of this issue. After all, here at Voice Alpha and in Whale Sound group readings, we regularly have a whole bunch of different accents reading the same piece and to me, accent is just one of a range of interesting & individual elements the individual reader brings to any reading.
However, I recently had occasion to think about a related point. Whale Sound takes third-party submissions and recently a very cool poet sent in this poem as a third-party submission. It’s a tremendous piece by Bahamas poet Desiree Cox, and it starts like this:
Well. When I see Sister Sheila step out
Face paint up like Jezebel
Royal blue satellite dish of a Sunday hat
Kick off to one side
Breasts mountain ranging
Strapless, under skirt suit the color of Caribbean Sea
Striding, her hard farm funnel foot
In navy-blue battleship shoes
I thought my hour had come
Lord knows I likes to die.
I really hate to turn down third-party submissions, because (frankly) they don’t come along nearly as frequently as I would like, but I definitely quailed here. This wonderful poem is written in a dialect that (to my mind) is constituted by two aspects – one the grammatical conventions used and the second, actual pronunciation of the words. Reading the grammar as presented would be one thing. But I’m a one-trick pony when it comes to pronunciation and have never considered trying to adopt other accents in my Whale Sound readings. I think I’d be very bad at it and would just make everyone cringe in the process.
What do you think? Assuming you yourself are not from the Bahamas or its dialectically-related region, would you read Dr. Cox’s poem out loud for an audience? And if so, how would you treat it?
(And would you read this by Robert Burns to an audience?
Nae doubt but they were fain o’ ither,
An’ unco pack an’ thick thegither;
Wi’ social nose whyles snuff’d an’ snowket;
Whyles mice and modewurks they howket;
Whyles scour’d awa in lang excursion,
An’ worry’d ither in diversion;
Till tir’d at last wi’ mony a farce,
They set them down upon their arse,
An’ there began a lang digression
About the lords o’ the creation.)