9 sept. 2007

However much we might claim we value orality and performance, the written text is still the thing. Imagine if most music consumers read scores every day and only once in a while listened to music or went to hear it played. If they heard music, if at all, played (indifferently) by the composer him or herself.

Some poets read well. Some read badly. But it is fair to say that few read well enough to make the experience of hearing that worth while. The average member of the poetry reading audience is a poet who can read aloud just about as well as the average poet reading. If the reader is not good, then every member of the audience is trying to image what the poem would sound like if read well.

Yet this same reader at home, even reading silently, can hear the wonderful music of poetry, noble accents and lucid inescapable rhythms, that are superior to all but the very best performances. Unheard melodies are in fact sweeter.

Only some very highly trained musicians can silently read a score and hear very much.

5 comentarios:

John dijo...

How do you rate the Santa Barbara's poet laureate in terms of his reading?

Here are two samples:


Jonathan dijo...

Poet laureate of Santa Barbara? That's pathetic. I can't get those to play on my computer.

John dijo...

Are you familiar with Spacks' work? He is a good reader.

What do you think of this guy, particularly "white vase?"


Do you feel the same about Shakespeare, that it's more pleasing to read him in private?

And a random question: do you consider Nietzsche a poet (with his Zarathustra)?


John dijo...

Many poets use their readings to turn lyric poetry into a linked verse-and-prose genre, with the poet generally semi-improvising (oral-style!) "prose" connectives between lyric episodes. Generally the prose connectives contextualize the poems in the poet's life or the cultural moment in which the poet wrote the poem.

My question is, if poets "read" this way, why do they omit the prose connectives from their publishings?

I know not all poets do this.

The music of most modern poets is quiet, not at all exclusing most of the poetry of most of the poets beloved by the great denouncer of "quietude." (Funny malaprop-typo -- "excluse" -- I'll keep it.) The non-quiet (musical) style tends toward the oratorical, a lineage running from Whitman through Sandburg through Ginsberg through the Slammers. I heard Ginsberg read and he was fantastic. Slammers tend to be excellent readers too -- actually, most of the Slammers I've seen recite from memory -- very bardic.

Do you know of any existing video of Rothenberg reading? He claimed an attachment to the performative, and your post makes me want to look it up. So -- thanks!

(I'm a different "john".)

Jonathan dijo...

I hate that. When poets explain their work. Usually the explanation is more compelling than the poem, so they're undercutting themselves.

I heard Rothenberg read, but only for about 45 seconds at one of those 50 poet readings. It wasn't a memorable 45 seconds, but that's not a fair sampling either.