16 jul. 2007

Yikes. Natasha T, recent Pulitzer prize winner, uses the dreaded sing-song "poetry voice" (to read her poems on Fresh Air with Terry Gross.) She seems quite intelligent and has a wonderful "prose" speaking voice, but the minute she switches to her "poetry voice" she loses a lot of credibility with me. Why do you do that, poets? Why do you use that voice?

I discovered that I can speak French fairly well, though there is little need to in Paris for most purposes. Understanding is pretty useful, all the same. The only books I bought were Raymond Roussel's Locus Solus and Impressions d'Afrique. I can understand them at about a 95% rate if I pay attention.

11 comentarios:

Jordan dijo...

Pitch-based accentual delivery, going back to the same pitch on the stressed syllables. It signifies seriousness, depth, music.

I have learned to love it anyway -- it's just a performance style, and a period one at that, like scat, or early punk, or kabuki.

Jonathan dijo...

It signifies music by being less musical, or more musically simplistic. Every accented syllable is at the same pitch, whereas in the "prose voice" there are a greater variety of pitches, not just two or three.

That's a good way of looking at it, though it could be seen as insult to Ella Fitzgerald.

Joannie dijo...

I have to laugh; I've been told that I have a "lilt"--and not in a good way--and I've spent years trying to get rid of it. My kids tell me to stop using the airy-fairy poetry voice. What seemed to work? Peforming poems as theatre, instead of as a reading. Still experimenting.

Andrew Shields dijo...

That "if I pay attention" can be a big "if", can't it? I've lived in German-speaking countries long enough that I can just read German without thinking about it, but I still have to concentrate to read French. And don't get me started on telephone conversations in French! Hopeless.

Bob Basil dijo...

I turn off the radio when poetry comes on NPR, typically.

Even talented writers want to sound oracular. They turn an 88-key piano into a single-string drone. I can't stand it!

Jordan dijo...

I don't know the etiology of the disorder for sure, but I suspect it has something to do with a) hearing 8000x that most poets are "terrible readers of their own work and b) the fact that poetry is a profoundly imitative art and c) it is less painful to sit through pitch-based accentual delivery than to struggle to stay awake during a complete monotone.

I suspect the paralyzing anxiety not unknown among poets has something to do with using the voice as a performance crutch. I am certain that anxiety also explains a lot about why poetry readings are often so disastrous -- the anxious affect comes straight on through. I wish all poets read like the Rev. Al Green sings but it doesn't happen much does it.

Jonathan dijo...

I suspect the PV is more common among women. I'm not sure I'm right, but that's been my experience. Most good poets are not terrible readers, in fact. The theory that "two pitches are better than one" is an ingenious one, I have to say. So instead of a monotone you get an oscillation between two basic pitches.

John dijo...

When Al Green sings he often leaves out a bunch of the words. That *would* be an interesting way for poets to read! A la Ronald Johnson's erasure of "Paradise Lost"!

Jim McCrary dijo...

Most poets think of poetry as a "spoken art". Sad eh. What do YOU listen too...or try to hear? Listen with your head and eyes. Beware the spoken word.

michael dijo...

i like the way Yeats and Millay read their poems out loud.

nobody but Russian poets declaim like that anymore.

m.

Annandale Dream Gazette dijo...

there's a pleading sound to it, also. If you couldn't hear the words at all and just got the tone, as if you were hearing one side of a conversation through a wall, it would sound like she was trying to get something through to someone she loved who was not really getting it. I agree with Jordan that it's a period thing. It says something about women who came to poetry at a certain point in time. Something not good. I've had to fight against the ingrained lilt also.