Voice Alpha

on reading poetry aloud for an audience


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disappointing reading – Yvor Winters

This is disappointing for me, as I am a big fan of some of Yvor Winters’ poetry. Just never heard him read before. In this one, he settles early on a cadence and ‘score’ for a stanza and repeats it over and over pretty much identically over nine stanzas of rhyming tetrameter. I suppose that’s the trouble with and danger in reading formal poetry – it’s very hard to avoid getting trapped by the iambs and rhymes and ending up with monotonous sing-song readings.

Sir Gawaine and the Green Knight by Yvor Winters, read by Yvor Winters
poem text
1 min 59 secs


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sub-zero: timbre & accent cont’d

ok, shoot me, but on the timbre and accent scale, this reading registers pretty much -0 on a scale of 1 to 10. Courtesy of Poem of the Day (and it’s a long one):

Fever 103° by and read by Sylvia Plath

3 min 16 secs

She is totally totally in love with the words, though – you can hear her absolutely relish and adore each one.

So, yes — I don’t know.


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voice: timbre

tim·bre/ˈtambər/
Noun: The character or quality of a musical sound or voice as distinct from its pitch and intensity.

Regional or other accent, the timbre/quality/sound of one’s voice and speech impediments such as lisps are three things pretty much out of control of most who read aloud for an audience. They should really be discounted when judging the quality of a reading. Do we discount them? Probably not as much as we should.

And so, thankless and perverse as my character is, I have been focusing, as you will have noticed, on these three elements in listening to the Poetry Foundation poem of the day for the past few weeks.

The voice of the reader of today’s poem is singled out, not for accent or lisp, but for wonderful-soundingness, or great timbre.

Unfortunately (hallo, Poetry Foundation…?) I don’t know whose voice this is. The notes tells us that Håkan Sandell is a Swedish poet who has lived most of his life in Scandinavian countries. They tell us that the English text of the poem is a translation done by Bill Coyle, but nothing tells us who does this particular reading.

Whatever the case, it’s a very nice voice.

Poetry Rejoices by Håkan Sandell
55 secs


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poetry out loud website – The Poeio Project

This is just charming. The project author writes:

I don’t know all that much about poetry – but I found this book – or rather, it found me – I walk around town with it, along with my little camera. I ask people on the street or where ever I go if they would like to read a poem from the little book – to my pleasant surprise most say yes.

What I like best about this project is at the very end when people finish reading the poem, there is an expression on their faces – a look of something genuine, and, well, I don’t know, innocence maybe… something pure meeting the threads of the self-conscious.

It’s nice to see people trying hard, struggling a bit, reflecting in the moment and then seeing that transition from introspection clash reality.

I think this is why everyone enjoys some kind of poetry, it lifts you up and out – there’s no helping it..

The year-long project started in July and seems to be posting a reading a day on both You Tube and Vimeo. Reminiscent of How Pedestrian, another poetry out loud website we interviewed here on Voice Alpha , but with its own unique approach. I don’t know exactly which book of poems forms the basis for the project, but I’m guessing it’s something Oxford Book Of English Verse-ish. Watch random passers-by obligingly read Wordsworth, Shakespeare, Gray, Blake, etc for the camera. And it’s true about people’s expressions when they look up after finishing their reading. Just delightful.

(all ‘poetry out loud websites’ featured on Voice Alpha)


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accents cont’d – Tennessee

More lovely southern accent: today’s Poem of the Day at the Poetry Foundation is Charles Wright’s ‘Stone Canyon Nocturne’. Enjoying his voice – so slow and pouring.

about Charles Wright
poem text
1 min 2 secs

all ‘accents’ posts

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