(4 minute read)
This is the story of the journey of a voice.
The Inflectionist Review states its mission as “publishing stark and distinctive contemporary poetry that fosters dialog between the reader and writer, between words and their meanings, between ambiguity and concept.”
It goes further to state it aims for, “…unique expression that resonates beyond the author’s world, beyond the page, and speaks to the universality of human language and experience.”
Considering “the universality of human language and experience.” I note that some consider poetry an art that was made to be spoken. I am conflicted by this view. While I can be shattered by a strong recitation (and I will give you a great example soon), I write from a silent voice, and I anticipate my readers experiencing the text in like manner.
With this aesthetic, I seldom enjoy listening to poets read their work. It’s almost always a let down. I once felt a kind of horror when a poet reading his work revealed that he spoke with a lisp. He interrupted the inherent magic of his beautifully written verse.
Frank O’Hara is a notable exception. His adorable, insouciant, 1950s New York City, diction suits his work to the letter, but we can’t all be Frank O’Hara.
The poet Rachel McKibbens said in a recent interview, “I come from a school that recognized the orality of the poem as the cherry on top. It better sound good when read aloud, otherwise what’s the goddamn point?” My point is this, when I’m reading a poem the last thing I want to hear is my voice.
Readings and recordings are further complicated for me in that I don’t like to perform at all. The dramatic art is one that I have tremendous admiration for, and I’m spiritually moved by the way an actor can give another kind of life, to the written word, by the strength of their interpretation.* But, I’m a writer not an actor; I resent an expectation of poet as performer, or worse entertainer.
If it were proposed, that writers illustrate their own book covers, I think we might quickly judge that, expectation of cross-disciplinary skill, as unreasonable.
I’m disappointed by my own recordings. I struggle to incarnate a dynamic re-interpretation of something that is perfected in the imagination of the reader.
My recorded voice is also much much higher than I experience it in on my end. I suffer hearing it; I hear something somewhat tremulous about it, whereas, I perceive my natural speech as confident, even authoritative. Imagine thinking you sound like Barak Obama, but instead you sound like Truman Capote.
This year, in an ongoing effort, to be attentive to the cultivation of my gifts and preferences, I decided, in spite of personal bias, to respond, in the positive, to persistent feedback that others experience my voice as pleasant.
I started recording my work currently available only in print. Around the time I was finishing “Connections,” John Sibley Williams, co-editor at Inflectionist Review, approached me to record “Pistol Whip.”
It was easy to say, yes. His request was synchronous with the flow on the river of my journey. I hope you will listen, like it on the Inflectionist’s SoundCloud, and perhaps pass it on.
What’s your perspective on giving poetry readings? Do you love giving them? Thank you for leaving a reply below.
*Andrew Scott reads ‘Fish’ by D. H. Lawrence
photos: s. roberts