Voice Alpha

on reading poetry aloud for an audience


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using text vs voice in videopoems

[cross-posted from Very Like A Whale because I think it’s relevant to the Voice Alpha ethos]

I wrote this a few weeks ago with the first text-only videopoem I made:

I remembered that in Tom Konyves’ videopoetry manifesto, he categorized videopoems according to their usage of text, with two key distinctions drawn between sound text and visual text. (He also asserted that visual text is ‘charged with leading’ the videopoetry genre, although I’m not sure I agree with that.) I realized that what with Whale Sound and Voice Alpha and now this interest in videopoetry, I’ve been engaged with ‘sound’ text almost exclusively for months now. The idea of making a videopoem without voice and with only visual text was therefore appealing.

I’ve now put together three vpoems with text only and no voice (links at bottom of this post). This is what I have learned so far, and, very interested, continue to ponder:

- Text is not a ‘poor relation’ to voice in videopoems. Not sure why or how I had absorbed this ‘fact’, but I had. Text is a different mechanism from voice. In videopoems text can be as strong (or stronger, if the voice alternative available is relatively weak) a mechanism as voice.

- Text used in videopoems is not like text on the page – it is more a text/voice hybrid, a halfway mark between both.

- This is probably because a) text on the page is a block, all visible, all together, in front of you while b) voice is a ribbon of sound unfurling for you – each word takes the place of the previous one, which disappears in front of it.

-Text in a videopoem takes on the ‘ribbon unfurling’ aspect of voice – each word takes the place of the previous one, which disappears in front of it.

- Text can be an active, communicative character in the performance that is videopoem.

- Text-as-ribbon can very competently (or more competently, depending on the strength of the voice alternative available) convey the nuances that voice-as-ribbon conveys – font, font size, text animation, sound/sense byte, pace – all these are elements that can convey feeling, cadence, tone, emotion.

- Text-as-ribbon, like voice-as-ribbon, is not a great respecter of linebreaks and other page-centric devices – the best way to present a sound/sense byte as text on the screen is not necessarily the way it is laid out on the page.

- Videopoem makers who are tired of or don’t trust the sound of their own voice need not be limited by the ‘voicings’ available to them, by whatever means – have at it with text, people!

Text-only videopoems:

the situation on Thursday by Nic Sebastian
you never thought by Nic Sebastian
No. XLII by e. e. cummings


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The Listening Booth

Let’s explore this! The first one I clicked on was Elizabeth Bishop, and got this message – “Due to copyright restrictions, this recording is available only to Harvard users. To access the recording, click here. A Harvard University ID number and PIN will be required.” WTF?

But many of the others seem to work just fine – more soon on this. Exciting!


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Tuesday Links: Jeannine Hall Gailey and Sandra Beasley

Last week, two poets wrote posts about readings, posts which contain interesting insights about preparing for poetry readings.

Are you a shy reader or a performance artist in fishnet stockings?  Jeanine Hall Gailey ponders these questions and others here.

In this post, Sandra Beasley discusses her two readings in Charleston, South Carolina.  If you’ve ever wondered whether or not a complicated form, like a sestina, can be part of your reading, Sandra Beasley has an answer.

Happy reading!

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