Voice Alpha

about reading poetry aloud for an audience


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‘when memory shakes open its prize’

Speaking of timbre, here’s a nice, warm, dense voice:

Song Beside the Barn Wall by Alice Templeton (1 min 37 secs)
poem text



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‘in sleep I drew a sausage’

Not fair to say it, since voice timbre is not really under anyone’s control, but I found this one pretty painful listening, recording quality aside.

His Carpets Flowered by Lorine Niedecker (2 min 10 secs)

poem text



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yes and no

Yes:

The Obsoletion of a Language by Kay Ryan
poem text


No:

Winter Solstice Chant by Annie Finch
poem text



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using voice to investigate and internalize

Love this post from Anthony Madrid.

When I was in the middle phase of dissertation writing, I developed a technique of reading I found so helpful and enriching that I want to urge it upon the whole world. This technique is a simple thing—“obvious”—yet I was forty before it ever occurred to me to do it. Now I can’t imagine my life as a serious reader of poetry without it. I’ll tell you the back story.


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Watch & listen to this!! – Robin Robertson

Wow, listen to this freaky amazing poem and watch how tremendously Scottish poet Robin Robertson delivers it! I’m bowled over by the performance. It’s all terrific, but for whatever reason, I’m loving that slow eye-closing thing that he does periodically most of all. (From the Guardian’s Close-up poetry series.)

In other Close-up poetry news, a nice reading from Scottish poet Liz Lochhead here. Relaxed yet focused delivery and she makes us feel the menace and tension. As mother of two boys, had to laugh in emotional recognition – I bet I’ll be the same when my boys are old enough!

Other Close-up series posts on Voice Alpha


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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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