Voice Alpha

on reading poetry aloud for an audience


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‘how to read a poem aloud’

Read it like someone trying to sound like you. Read it like your parents would. Read it like how you’ll sound in forty years. What parts of it will go missing when you’re old, when you’re your parents, when you can only any longer imitate yourself?

- Full article by Donald Dunbar at Sound Literary Magazine. (Hat tip: Dave Bonta)


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voice as organ of investigation

“.. to say the words over and over and then to hear yourself say them [..] is to go farther into the poem than you might have imagined was possible. Suddenly, you start to see the things between the lines and letters. Sometimes, you stop in your tracks mid-read and realize you have to start over.”

[..]

“.. with each subsequent reading, I found myself feeling the poems more as the speaker rather than an outside reader. I suppose it must be a bit like this for an actor learning a character, moving from reader to this other self that exists in the lines of the poem.

I don’t know if this is how poetry reading should be done, but it makes sense to me to think of a poem as something that is said or told as if letting the audience in on some secret rather than recited or pronounced (in the sense of pronouncement). When I read to my students, this approach seems to work best for them. They actually listen.

The best thing about this is that by the end, when I sit back and listen, I feel like I’ve come to understand the poem in a way I hadn’t before. As if now, I’ve really walked that mile in the other’s shoes.”

James Brush recently joined the ranks of volunteer readers for The Poetry Storehouse and blogged about his experience here. His experience with preparing and reading poetry aloud for an audience tracks exactly with mine. The voice truly is an organ of investigation, and one that brings you information about what you are reading that is not otherwise available to you. I think it’s related to putting the poem into the body, as it were, and making it a physical, bodily experience.

Listen to James’s Storehouse readings here and see information about all Storehouse readers here.


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thanks for reading other people’s poems!

We have added a new page to acknowledge our volunteer readers at The Poetry Storehouse. This is to gratefully acknowledge those who volunteer to provide audio for poems other than their own.

Every recording up there increases a poem’s chance of being remixed. More than one reading for a single poem is even better, in that it gives the remixer more material to choose from, since different voices and reading styles resonate differently with each remixer. And even where audio is not used in a remix, it plays a valuable role in adding depth to a remixer’s engagement with a piece.

If you would like to volunteer to read at The Poetry Storehouse, leave a comment below, email nic_sebastian at hotmail dot com, or just go ahead and pick a poem, make your recording and send it to Nic. Tips on getting started with audio recording here.


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Librivox – ‘acoustical liberation of books in the public domain’

Who says community service can’t be fun? After way too much procrastination, I have finally signed up to be a volunteer reader at Librivox, where the goal is to make audio versions of public domain books freely available. It’s quite a process. You have to make and upload a one-minute audio test which meets certain technical requirements and get it cleared by a Librivox administrator. Then they ask that before you try any solo reading you participate in some group readings to get a sense of how things work.

My brand-new Librivox page has two readings on it so far – one a ‘poem of the week’ contribution (they do a group read of one poem a week) and the other, a 1000-word segment of Giacomo Leopardi’s Complete Works, in translation. The latter is a small part of a much bigger group reading and won’t be available for general listening until the entire book is complete, in case you’re wondering. Both selections were totally random (although I do have a soft spot for Leopardi after making a videopoem based on one of his pieces way back when) and were based simply on what was up for grabs when I happened to be looking for something to read.

Now that my Helen in Egypt project is complete, I am looking for the next extended-reading poetry project, and will do it via Librivox. The question is, which public domain book of poetry should I go for? ‘Some Imagist Poets‘ caught my eye up at Project Gutenberg, mainly because it has Amy Lowell and H.D. in it. No idea who the others are, though, apart from Lawrence.

(cross-posted at Very Like A Whale)


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“Stop using ‘Poet Voice’”

Maybe the poet is the great Louise Glück or the former US Poet Laureate Natasha Trethewey. Maybe the poet is a close friend. Whoever it is, that person has just slipped into Poet Voice, ruining everybody’s evening and their own poetry because now the audience has to spend a lot of intellectual and emotional energy trying to understand the words of the poem through a thick cloud of oratorical perfume.

Full article by Rich Smith here.

Lol. Don’t disagree with what he is saying, but my pet peeve remains the end of line note. Which sometimes, but not always, comes along with other characteristics described in the article.

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